Ruth 4:11-22 – Every person is significant

Ruth 4v11-22

 

EVERY PERSON IS SIGNIFICANT!

 

Introduction.

We come now to the end of the story of Ruth / the climax. And yet in many ways it is only just the beginning of the story.

Ruth and Boaz marry – the people rejoice with them. There is a great human need for festivity. Human life needs moments set apart for celebration and partying! The routines of life need to be interrupted with partying. Birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, weddings – any special event. These need to be community events. We are so private / so individual.

The proverb says “When you laugh the world laughs with you, when you cry you cry alone!” Do we even laugh together anymore??

 

Think of the potential for witness as Christians. We have the idea very often that evangelism and witness is bringing people to church / or some other meeting so we can preach at them. We run this verbal gospel message over them.

The place to start in my view is by the Christian community celebrating together the good things of life – inviting our unbelieving friends and colleagues to join us.

What did Jesus say “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples IF you sit them in rows and preach at them!!” NO “… IF you show love to one another.” How will people ever see that if we live behind closed door isolated from each other and non-believers?

Ruth and Boaz celebrated in the community / with the community.

 

  1. 1.     The Prayer.

Ruth 4:11-12 11 Then the elders and all those at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. 12 Through the offspring the LORD gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.” (NIV)

 

The prayer of the people heightens the awareness that this in not simply an arrangement first between Boaz and the nearer kinsman (who had prior claim to Ruth under the OT levirate system) – BUT that the hand of God is in these dealings. I am sure that Boaz and Ruth had anxious moments.

Often we are in situations like that where we, like Boaz, have to make decisions and we simply do not know where it will end. It is only with hindsight that we see the hand of God directing affairs.

What is the people’s prayer for this couple?

1st – for Ruth. May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel.

Rachel and Leah were the two wives of Jacob – along with Jacob’s concubines born him 12 sons. It was there that the nation of Israel [Jacob’s new name] with the 12 tribes, came.

Their prayer for Ruth, not a Jew but a Moab, might become the mother of many descendants / that she might become the ancestress of a great nation. Little did the people know that their pray would be answered beyond their wildest dreams hundreds of years later.

 

2nd – for Boaz. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem.

The use of the word Ephrathah is significant because it means ‘fruitful’. It is another name for Bethlehem, which means ‘house of bread’. Remember that in chapter 1 the story began with a famine in Bethlehem Ephrathah. It was anything but fruitful and full of bread. Now not only is the food famine over BUT for Ruth a new home and community and for Boaz a place of honour in the town. Now not only with the name of Elimelech, Ruth’s late father-in-law, and Mahlon, Ruth’s late husband, be preserved for posterity BUT so too the name of Boaz!

 

3rd – for the family.

…..May your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.

We are not told whether or not Boaz was or had been married but it would appear that he had no children of his own. So not only was he preserving the name of Mahlon and Elimelech but also for himself. His willingness to sacrifice his resources and act as Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer made his name go down in history. If he had not acted in this way we would not know about him today. He is a picture of one of his descendants who because of his self-sacrifice “was given a name that is above every name – Jesus Christ!” [Phil. 2]

Who are Perez, Judah and Tamar? [Genesis 38]

 

Abraham

Isaac

Jacob

12 sons incl. Judah

Er      m.      Tamar

Onan

Tamar                            Shelah

Perez

Zerah [scarlet thread]

Perez was the firstborn of a levirate relationship between Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar. Bethlehem was a town in the territory of the tribe of Judah. Perez is therefore one of the ancestors of the Bethlehemites. The house of Perez is referring to the large number of his descendants – many of whom were at the gate praying God’s blessing on Boaz and Ruth.

Their prayer is that Boaz and Ruth may have numerous descendants – that their name might be famous.

 

  1. 2.     The Baby.

Ruth 4:13   13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. Then he went to her, and the LORD enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. (NIV)

 

God has been good to Ruth – Back in Moab she came to accept the God of Israel as her God. There is evidence of faith and trust. She and Naomi continue to experience God’s guiding and provision and protection in spite of adversity. God guided her to the field of Boaz where Boaz fell in love with her. God continues to oversee the negotiations between Boaz and the nearer kinsman. Now Boaz and Ruth are married and God graciously allows Ruth to conceive and give birth to a son.

 

They name their son Obed – ‘servant’. The best thing we can ever wish for our children I that they are servants of God!!

 

This baby – Obed – in answer to the prayers of the people and no doubt in answer to the prayers of Boaz and Ruth – and don’t forget the doting Granma, Naomi – he became a blessing to many people!

 

A Blessing to Boaz and Ruth.

Boaz was not a young man – probably didn’t have children certainly no son and heir. Ruth was widowed young and maybe the prospect of children seemed remote. Now Obed was in their home – what a joy! Every baby is a special gift from God and should be treated that way.

Every child deserves a loving home and caring parents. It is sad when families break up – it is sad when parents neglect / abuse their children. It is sad when parents are so busy acquiring possession / pursuing careers / indulging in selfish past-times and the children are neglected.

None of us get it all right! And there are no guarantees BUT if we work at showing love and discipline / training and instruction in the Lord they will have a better chance.

 

A Blessing to Naomi.

Naomi had lost her husband and her sons – what a heartache she had. Yet now through the faithful devotion of Ruth she has a grandson to carry forward the family name! The women of Bethlehem share Naomi’s joy when they say,  “Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! Ruth 4:14 (NIV)

 

There is no better way for Grandparents to invest than to invest in there grandchildren.

ILLUS.: I never really knew my grandfathers – one died the year after I was born and the other who died when I was a teenager never spent much time with us. My grandmothers both lived well into their 90’s. One stopped living when she hit 70 and was always moaning – The other, with whom I spent much time was a delight. Everyone loved her and she loved everyone. She had 11 grandchildren – one day someone asked her if she had a favourite grandchild, “No,” she said, “and if I did I would never tell anyone!”

 

One of my regrets about living in the YK is that my children have grown up without Grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins!

If your are a grand parent – or maybe you don’t have grandchildren of your own – still “There’ is no better way to get a new lease on life than to invest in the younger generation!”

There is another reason why grandchildren are grand – “ They are grand when they come and they are grand when they leave!”

 

A Blessing to Bethlehem.

The name of Elimelech almost disappeared from Israel but this baby Obed would bring fame to Bethlehem. How? Most of the world knows about Bethlehem. It was the place David came from – Israel’s most famous king. Of course it is also the place Jesus was born. Still today 1000’s go to Bethlehem every year to remember its past significance!

 

A Blessing to Israel.

Obed was the grandfather of King David. What influence did he have on the live of the young David? We don’t know if he was alive when David was born BUT David wouldn’t have been without Obed. We remember David for fighting Goliath and his adultery with Bathsheba. BUT think of David’s contribution to Israel in terms of his leadership and general and king – AND the psalms and music he produced.

 

A Blessing to the whole world.

The greatest blessing God gave David [and thus Obed] was not a great army or the resources to build a Temple BUT a promise that one of his descendants would be king on his throne forever. The people knew that the Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah but they didn’t know which family. God chose David’s family. The Redeemer would be known as the “son of David” [Matt.1v1].

 

When the people of Bethlehem praised God for the birth of Obed little did they know the plans God had for that little boy. Through him would come the great King David and the even greater King / Saviour Jesus Christ. It would be to Jesus that the nations of the world would come. [In a while we will sing P.866 “….in him all nations shall be blessed.”]

 

Now no one else will ever have as great a descendant as Obed had in Jesus. BUT we have no idea what impact any child will have on the world.

ILLUS.: In the year 1809 world attention – at least Western world – was focused on Napoleon marching across Austria. One village and town after another were falling before his armies.

During that same year thousands of babies were born in Britain and America but who cared about bottles, nappies and cradles with such momentous event going on in Europe.

In that same year William Gladstone was born in Liverpool. Alfred Tennyson began life in Lincolnshire. Charles Robert Darwin wore his first nappy and in a little log cabin in Hardin County, Kentucky, an illiterate labourer and his wife named their new-born son Abraham Lincoln.

 

We do not know what the children in our care will become – whether our own / our grandchildren / the kids in SS or youth club / pupils at school.

But not just children – every person is significant in God’s economy. Maybe the world doesn’t know your name or recognise you as significant BUT we are talking about God’s economy.

 

ILLUS.: {some may remember this story from before} Henry Varley – anyone know who he is? Dwight L Moody? Moody the great preacher – Varley a butcher who one day said to a young Moody “The world has yet to see what God will do with a man fully committed to him!” Moody replied “By God’s grace I will be that man!”

John Wesley said of his mother Suzanna “I learn more about God from my mother than from all the theologians of England.”

 

You and I may not be D L Moody or John Wesley but we can be a “Suzanna” or a “Henry Varley”

 

  1. 3.     The Family Tree.

 

The Bible seems to have a lot of genealogies – we skip reading them most of the time. Why are they there? Because history is important. It is important that we do not forget the past. It is important to see that each conception and birth is a gift of God. But they are gifts from God within a context. We are who we are to a degree because of who our parents are and our grandparents. Our history matters.

 

God comes to us in Jesus Christ – a historical figure – he doesn’t come out of the blue / in isolation. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob / of Naomi, Ruth, Boaz, Obed, and David. There is an interconnectedness between the covenant-keeping God of the OT and the God of the New Covenant [NT] who came in the person of Jesus Christ.

 

As we look back at God’s providential care for his people {Israel} collectively and for individuals like Naomi and Ruth we are comforted and encouraged because he is still the same God.

 

The story of Ruth is set against the background of the period of the judges. A time characterised by people following any god except Yahweh – a time of disorder – they were dark days in Israel’s history. Yet in the midst of that is Ruth – a foreigner – who is loved and redeemed at a price by Boaz.

It reminds us of Jesus – our redeemer – who has already paid a redemption price for us and wants to bring us into his family. As far as He is concerned everyone is significant – significant enough for the God of the universe to come to earth in the person of Jesus Christ and love us.

BUT that love and redemption must be believed and received.

If we have done that like many here have then we need to ensure that we are living in close relationship with him and not as an estranged couple.

 

Boaz didn’t want an estranged relationship with Ruth that simply paid a sum in a sterile financial transaction – he wanted a wife to love and be intimate with – that is what God wants with each of us.

 

 

 

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Ruth 4:11-12 – Community / Family or just a Collection of Individuals?

Ruth 4v11-12

 

Community / Family or just a Collection of Individuals?

Introduction.

 

ILLUS.: It is an interesting phenomenon that in UK society the population growth rate is very small and yet the demand for housing is increasing esp. in the SE. There are many factors that influence this and I don’t want to be simplistic about it but one of the factors is that fewer people are marrying and of those that do marry 1/3 get divorced. Every time a couple split up two homes are needed instead of one.

There was a report this week that woman who have just had a baby feel isolated and stressed, unable to cope – they want more midwife / health visitor support. So now more research is going to be done!! Women have been having babies since the beginning of time – so what has changed? Family / community has become smaller and smaller – in the past there were mothers / grandmothers / sisters and aunts around to help. Now most of us live in isolated little boxes!!

Families are scattered all over the country if not the world.

We have no family in this country!!

 

The reasons for the present situation are complex – there are economic factors, moral factors, philosophical factors etc…. BUT what is clear is that we have become very individualistic. We talk about community but few are willing to sacrifice individual needs and wants for the sake of community. The choices we make about were we live, how we make our living, who we socialise with, who we live with / marry have become individual, private choices and actions YET whether we like it or not the choices we make do have an impact on the community.

 

Why am I going on about this? Because it struck me in reading Ruth how when Boaz decides to act as Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer and agrees to marry her, the whole community is involved.

 

1. Marriage – a man and a woman.

 

Boaz marries Ruth.

We have seen over the past weeks the responsibility of the ‘levir’. If a man died leaving a widow with no heir it was the responsibility of the man closest relative – usually his brother – to act as ‘Levir’. He was to bring the widow into his family and produce an heir through her for his brother.

This levirate duty did not always imply marriage – in the case of Judah and Tamar back in Genesis there was no marriage although Tamar did have a son by Judah even if it was by devious means.

 

In Ruth’s case the kinsman nearer than Boaz was unwilling to perform his levirate duty let alone marry Ruth because it would jeopardise his own estate.

Boaz is willing not only to perform the levirate duty BUT he wants to marry Ruth and love her as his wife.

 

Most of us like a good love story – Think about the great books / movies / plays / operas … how many are love stories? Probably this is so because deep down we all wanted to have an intimate relationship with another person who we can love and who will love us.

 

For those who are happily married it is a wonderful estate. Sadly for some it is far from happy and can be a desperate state.

Some would love to marry but the opportunity has never occurred. Some choose not to marry and are happy that way.

 

But whether we marry or not we all need to belong!

 

2. Marriage is a family affair.

 

Ruth 4:9-12  9 Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion and Mahlon. 10 I have also acquired Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from the town records. Today you are witnesses!”

In vv.14-16 when a baby is born to Ruth and Boaz, the women of the town come to Naomi and rejoice with her at God’s goodness.

 

Contrary to what some people believe marriage is not a private affair. When you marry your marry a family. I know mothers-in-law are the butt of many jokes but it is true that in-laws have an influence on a marriage for good or bad – sometimes they are a support and sometimes an interference but they are there.

Once a couple has children it is often then that the in-laws descend.

 

So marriage is a family affair – when Naomi married Ruth no doubt Naomi came along as part of the deal. Marry the girl of your dreams and get the mother-in-law into the bargain!! We may joke about these things but it is important to realise that we marry into each others families!

3. Marriage is a community affair.

 

Ruth 4:11-12 11 Then the elders and all those at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. 12 Through the offspring the LORD gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.” (NIV)

 

All the people are involved in this matter – they are called as witnesses to the agreement between Boaz and the nearer kinsman.

But all the people were also involved in the celebration – they pray for God’s blessing on Boaz and Ruth and rejoice with them when a son is born to them

 

In both the OT and NT the marriage is seen as both:

¨     Personal and relational as we focus on the couple   ….   And in..

¨     Social terms when we stand back and see the couple in their place in the wider community.

In Genesis 2:24 24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. (NIV)

The leaving is understood as a public declaration – it is the occasion when the couple receives the public support of family and friends.

One preacher of the past, Bonhoeffer, put it like this, “Marriage is more than your love for each other. It has a higher dignity and power, for it is God’s holy ordinance … In your love you see only the heaven of your happiness, but in marriage you are placed at a post of responsibility towards the world and mankind. Your love in your own private possession, but marriage is something more than personal – it is a status, an office … that joins you together in the sight of God and man.”

 

The question many ask today is “Why get married?” “Why bother with a piece of paper?”

Besides saying that this is the way God designed it there is the social importance of public witness. The public witness of exchanging vows before God and people serve among other things to protect marriage in time of strain and difficult – it is a constant reminder of promises made and obligations entered into. Now I know many today disregard those promises.

 

For the Christian this is even more vital as part of the family / community of God. The church is to be a family – BUT let’s face it – we function more as a collection of individuals than we do as a family. (Unfortunately modern family life is not necessarily a good model to follow) Healthy families spend time together, they play together, the eat together, they learn together, they care of each other, they help each other, they celebrate together, they argue/fight and hopefully workout their differences together.

 

In the cultures like that of Israel the family was the extended family NOT husband / wife and 2.4 children – so singles and widows and teenagers and young adults were all part of family life.

 

I remember reading an African author responding to a western journalist who was critiquing rural African lifestyle. He responded by saying “You westerners criticise African life as backward and unsophisticated but you live in boxes stack one on top of each other. These towers of boxes spit you out in the morning you are sucked along tubes underground to emerge only to enter other boxes in which you sit all day shuffling papers and staring at machines. At the end of the day you go back the same way to your little isolated boxes to eat alone. AND you wants us Africans to exchange what we have living under the African sky for what you have?”

 

We have to acknowledge that for the most part modern western life is not in community. That greatly affects the church –

 

So marriage is not just a personal affair – it’s a community affair.

And into this context of family come children.

 

4. Marriage – the context for children.

 

Boaz and Ruth and their new baby were part of a wider community. This is reflected in the prayer for the child that he will influence the whole community – not just a benefit to his parents.

 

There was recognition that children were a gift from God to be part of God’s community for the benefit of all and for the glory of God. Children were not fashion accessories to be disposed of before birth if they might inconvenience the parent/s.

 

Go into our hospitals – at one end doctors and nurses are working day and night to save the lives of sick babies WHILE at the other end babies are being torn from their mothers wombs because they are unwanted [about 400 per day in the UK] Life is a gift from God!!

Look at verse 13 — Ruth 4:13            13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. Then he went to her, and the LORD enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. (NIV)

God is the source of life – God enabled Ruth to conceive and give birth. The conception of a child is seen as a gift from God. The biblical witness is that life begins at conception…

Psalm 139:13-16           13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, 16 your eyes saw my unformed body.     ….. (NIV)

 

Many modern secular thinkers agree – there is increasing evidence that the early foetal experiences are very significant – particularly the first three months of foetal life – the health and welfare of the mother can have marked effect on the developing personality.

Jeremiah 1:5 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,

before you were born I set you apart;

I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (NIV)

 

Conception is a gift from God. At conception all the human genes are present – a human person in process of becoming – a human being with a personal destiny under God.

 

God gave as a gift to Ruth conception and birth of Obed – That one child made a difference – he became the father of Jesse – the father of David – ultimately the father of Jesus Christ.

One child can make a difference – where would we be if the world never had

An Alexander Fleming who discover [w. others] penicillin, the Wright Bros. Who developed the aeroplane, Alexander G Bell who invented the telephone.

Think of the world without Mozart, Shakespeare, da Vinci ….

Think of the potential destroyed in those unborn children.

Wendy Swanson captures this sentiment in her song “All they need is a chance

Proceed with caution

We’re making up the rules

Living for the moment

Like existential fools

A million unborn promises

We never knew their names

We’re gambling with the future

Extinguishing the flames

All they need is a chance

All they need is a single chance

One child could make a difference

One child could change the world.

 

We are not just a collection of individuals with personal RIGHTS. We are part of community. Esp. in the church!!

 

We all know that we do not live in a perfect world. Not all children are born to happy couples. Not all children who are conceived are born. Not all families stay together. There are many broken relationships and broken lives and broken hearts. Some are here now!

 

And we can easily retreat into our idealistic ivory towers and pontificate about the sad state of our world. OR we can be like the descendent of Boaz and Ruth – Jesus who came into a broken world with love and hope / forgiveness and sacrifice for others.

 

Maybe you have experienced a broken relationship / a terminated pregnancy that you now regret ~ We are all guilty about something. None of us is in a position to throw stones.

As Jesus said to the accusers of the woman caught in adultery “The one without sin let him cast the first stone!”

 

The whole message of the book of Ruth is about a kinsman-redeemer. The one who in compassion and love reaches out to one in need of love and care.

John 3:16-17       16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (NIV)

 

We have all blown it – no matter how self-righteous we may think we are! The good news is that God invites all to be part of his family. And those of us who have come into God’s family by faith in Jesus are called upon to live as family / community.

The gospel means good news – and the good news is that no matter what we have done Jesus our kinsman-redeemer stand ready to welcome us into his family. All we must do is respond to his offer!

Lord, I believe; help now my unbelieving;

I come in faith because your promise stands.

Your word of pardon and of peace receiving

All that I am I place within your hands.

Let me become what you shall choose to make me

freed from the guilt and burden of my sins.

Jesus is mine, who never shall forsake me

And in his love my new-born life begins.

Timothy Dudley-Smith.

 

Ruth 4:1-10 – Love finds a way

Ruth 4v1-10

 

LOVE FINDS A WAY!

Introduction.

ILLUS.:  “Stories for the Heart” p.117 – READ.

Love – real love / true love looks beyond the external / beyond looks / beyond circumstances and sees the heart. We are not told whether or not Ruth was physically beautiful BUT we are told that she was a virtuous woman.

Boaz speaking — Ruth 3:11 11  All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character. (NIV)

We live in a world where character is not nearly as highly valued as it once was – 50 years ago when a person applied for a new job the prospective employer required a character reference. Was this person honest / upright / moral … NOW the concern is about their potential to boost company profits.

However from God’s perspective character is of infinitely more value than looks / abilities / status, that is why we read of God’s choosing of David as Israel’s future king “People look at outward appearance but God looks at the heart” [1 Samuel 16:7]

That is what John Blanchard saw in Hollis Maynell even though they had never met face to face.

It was this that Boaz saw in Ruth – a woman of noble character. What we are on the inside is what we are!

 

When we left the story last time Boaz had promised Ruth that he would redeem her. You remember that Boaz was related to Naomi’s late husband Elimelech. Ruth, a Moabite, had married Mahlon, Elimelech’s and Naomi’s son. The law in Israel was that if a man died leaving a wife with not son the closest male relative had an obligation to marry her so that the deceased man and property may continue in his name. The purpose of these laws was to preserve the name and protect the property of families in Israel.

God owned the land and didn’t want it exploited by rich people who would take advantage of poor people and widows. God hasn’t changed and he will hold to account those in positions of affluence and power who exploit and disadvantage others – whether it is individuals, companies or nations. One of the reasons why God punished Israel and sent them into exile was because the rich and powerful abused the land stealing it from the rich and powerful.

 

Boaz was not the nearest relative but at Ruth request he agreed to act as kinsman-redeemer. How much Naomi was match making behind the scene we simply don’t know? What we do know is that Boaz was willing to redeem Ruth – to love her and bring her into his family.

1. Meaning /Purpose of Redemption.

What is the meaning and purpose of redemption? The word means to set ‘free by paying a price’. It was the language of the slave markets – If a slave was to be set free and before a Freed-man someone had to buy him/her and grant them their freedom – they were thus redeemed!

It is the language of the Porn-broker’s shop – if you have porned a gold bracelet and you want it back you must pay a price to ‘redeem it’

In the case of Naomi and Ruth the land that was originally owned by Elimelech was past to Mahlon when his father died but now that he too had died the land would pass to a son born to his widow, in this case Ruth. At some point the land must have been sold or mortgage and it needed to be redeemed – but Ruth and Naomi were too poor to redeem the land themselves and so they needed a kinsman-redeemer. However the redemption price that Boaz was willing to pay was not just about land but also people. Ruth and Naomi needed redemption but did not have the ware-with-all to redeem themselves.

 

When it comes to the spiritual realm all people need redemption – but we like Ruth and Naomi do not have the ware-with-all to redeem ourselves. Spiritually all people are poor and destitute – in fact the bible tells us that we are spiritually dead –  Ephesians 2:1-2           1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, [the devil]…..

Another way of putting it is that we are slaves to sin – and need to be freed – John 8:34 Jesus .., “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.

We tend not to think of ourselves in bondage / slavery – if we tell people they are slaves they will say “Don’t be ridiculous – I am free I can do as I please!!” But that is just it – doing as I please / self-pleasing means that I have ignored God and consider myself to be the master of my own destiny — but that is precisely the essence of sin from which we need redemption if we are to come into the family of God. Like Ruth was going to come into the family of Boaz!!

It is Jesus who came to free us and bring us into God’s family — Mark 10:45 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (NIV)

John 1:12 12 .. to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — (NIV)

 

2. Marks/ Peculiarities of a Redeemer.

Boaz was not the only man in Bethlehem – what marks him out as the one who actually fulfils the role of kinsman-redeemer?

There are three marks of a Redeemer:-

1st – he had to be related. Now Boaz was related but he was not the nearest relative – an obstacle he had to overcome and we will see in a moment how he did that.

Again here we see a picture of Christ. He had to become related to us before he could redeem us.

John 1:14  The Word [Jesus Christ] became flesh [he took human form – Phil.2] and made his dwelling among us. …

 

Hebrews 2:14-15           14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil — 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. (NIV)

 

He became human – the creator became a creature to rescue the creatures he created from the mess they had got themselves into. He became part of our human family so that we humans could become part of God’s family!!

 

2nd – The kinsman-redeemer had to be able to pay the redemption price – he had to possess the resources. Ruth had no resources of her own. Boaz on the other hand had the means to redeem!

When it comes to the redemption of humanity no one but God himself in the person of Christ has the necessary mean to redeem. And it was no money that was needed. Peter expresses it this way in his letter – 1 Peter 1:18-19 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (NIV)

Titus 2:14 14 {JESUS} gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, …. (NIV)

 

3rd – Being related and having resources was not enough – there had to be a willingness to act. As we will see in a moment the nearer kinsman had the money but was unwilling.

Jesus wasn’t forced to be our redeemer as if was an unwilling victim of a vindictive heavenly Father on the contrary Jesus says – John 10:15-18 15 …. — and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 ….. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life — only to take it up again. 18 No-one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. …..” (NIV)

 

 

3. Method/ Process of redemption.

 

We read the account of how Boaz negotiates with the other kinsman – one commentator calls him the ‘barefoot’ kinsman because he had to take off his sandal. [vv.7-8]

In the Ancient Near East all business and judicial affairs were settled at the city gate in the presence of the elders of the city. Usually around 10 men. This is quite probably the basis for the jury system of justice in many countries.

Boaz goes to the gate – gathers the elders of the city and summons the nearer kinsman.

 

Boaz now puts the proposal to the nearer-kinsman. “Will he act as “goel” [redeemer] to buy back land and assume levirate responsibilities for the widow?”

  • [‘levir’ – loosely meaning ‘brother-in-law’. The levirate regulates marriage customs when the man of the house dies. The nearest kinsman was to marry the widow and have children for his brother to perpetuate his name and his property]

 

We can assume that this nearer-kinsman realises that Naomi is beyond childbearing so if he redeems the land and get Naomi into the bargain there will be no heir for Elimelech and thus the land will become his and his children’s. This is appealing and will boost his estate so he agrees to redeem the land.

 

Now Boaz plays his trump card – as Christians we do not have to be deceitful to be astute business negotiators – Ruth 4:5          5 Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi and from Ruth the Moabitess, you acquire the dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.”

 

It is obviously accepted that Ruth who is of childbearing age would replace Naomi in the levirate responsibility of raising children for Elimelech.

The kinsman in now in a predicament which it exactly what Boaz intended.

 

If the kinsman accepts Ruth as part of the deal and she has a son then the son inherits the land belonging to Naomi / Elimelech thus his family lose the money he has laid out to redeem the land! He I unwilling to weaken his own estate. Ruth 4:6 At this, the kinsman-redeemer said, “Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.” (NIV)

 

 

This shows that the redeemer acting in this way did so at personal cost – the redeemer would have to give part of his own inheritance for the sake of another.

This is Boaz – The nearer kinsman was unwilling to risk anything; he failed even to fulfil the Law. Boaz fulfilled the law but went way beyond the law in covenant love for Ruth.

 

The custom of taking off the sandal to secure the agreement probably relates to the divine command to walk on the land to take possession of it –

Genesis 13:17 17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.” (NIV)

Deuteronomy 11:24 24 Every place where you set your foot will be yours: Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the Euphrates River to the western sea. (NIV)

Joshua 1:3 3 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. (NIV)

In the years to come the 10 elders/ witnesses would be able to testify that this transaction had taken place because they saw the kinsman take off his sandal and give it to Boaz.

 

Boaz took the risk of love and his name in written down in honour and we remember it today. The nearer kinsman who was so concern to protect his name and inheritance is nameless!

 

All through this story we have seen that Boaz is a picture of Christ our kinsman redeemer.

Like Boaz,….

  • Jesus was not concerned about jeopardising his own inheritance instead he made us part of his inheritance – Ephesians 1:18 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, (NIV)
  • Jesus made plans privately but paid the price publicly
  • Jesus did what he did because of his love for his bride.

 

But there are differences ……

–       Boaz redeemed Ruth out of his wealth: Jesus purchased his bride by giving himself on the cross. Boaz didn’t have to suffer and die to get his bride but Jesus did.

–       To Boaz Ruth was a virtuous and loveable woman – BUT the bible tells us that Jesus die for us while we were still sinners / while we were still enemies of God.

 

There are wonderful stories about love between people and how at great sacrifice obstacles are overcome and they all lived happily ever after. The Story of Ruth and Boaz must rank high on the list. Yet we know that no human love story is ever happy forever because we all die – so love stories always end in sadness!

 

BUT God’s love story between his Son and Bride is one were they all live happily ever after.

God’s love is eternal –when we come to God in repentance and faith in Christ, we are brought into his family it is forever. – Sure in this life there are and will be many obstacles and problems but in the end there will be a heavenly wedding between Christ and the church and we will live happy, contented, trouble free and fulfilled lives forever in a perfect relationship with God.

 

Because God’s love has found a way! A way that cost the Son of God his life – Salvation/redemption that the children of God enjoy is freely given/received BUT it is not secure at no cost – the cost was very great it just wasn’t paid by us – God paid it because he loves us!

 


Ruth 4v1-10

 

LOVE FINDS A WAY!

 

 1.       Meaning /Purpose of Redemption.

 

  • To set ‘free by paying a price’

 

 2.       Marks/ Peculiarities of a Redeemer.

 

  • 1st – he had to be related.

 

  • 2nd –he had to have the resources.

 

  • 3rd –he had to be a willing.

 

 3.       Method/ Process of Redemption.

 

  • Redemption is costly – the cost is borne by the Redeemer not by the redeemed.

Ruth 3:1-18 – Sleepless in Bethlehem! (part 2)

Ruth 3:1-18 [part 2]

Sleepless in Bethlehem!!!

 

So Far …   the story should now be familiar! Maybe someone from the congregation should tell it!!

… this is a story about a family that ran into major difficulties. Chapter 1 tells us that a man, Elimelech, and his wife, Naomi left Israel during a famine to make a new life in a foreign land. They had two sons – in Moab the two sons married local women and then one after another Elimelech and this two sons died leaving three widows. They returned to Bethlehem – Naomi and one faithful daughter-in-law, Ruth.

 

Back in Bethlehem we have these two widows – one old and one young – one a native Israelite and one an alien – both poor – both with faith in God in spite of Naomi’s feelings of bitterness she still believed

 

BUT because God is concerned for the poor, the widows, the orphans and the foreigners he gave instructions to treat the poor with equality and generosity.

 

Naomi & Ruth know they can glean in the harvest fields because farmers were ordered by God to leave the edges of the field & the dropped grain for the poor.

Ruth happens to come to a field that is owned by a man named Boaz. (NIV)

 

Boaz also happens to be a relative – “That man is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers.” – of Ruth’s late father-in-law. The Family tie means that he has a responsibility to Naomi and Ruth. We will see later in the story that there was a closer relative who is not esp. inclined to fulfil his responsibility.

 

Israelite laws to protect family heritage and inheritance

  • ‘levir’ – loosely meaning ‘brother-in-law’. The levirate regulates marriage customs when the man of the house dies.

·        ‘goel’ – is a near kinsman / relative who acts as redeemer of persons or property. The word means to ‘buy back’ or ‘redeem’

 

1. Advising [v.1-5]

Naomi advises Ruth to go and lay at Boaz’s feet at night on the threshing floor. A way of asking Boaz to act as kinsman-redeemer. I.e. asking him to marry her.

 

2. Asking [v. 6-9]

Ruth heeds Naomi’s advice and Boaz responses favourably – but there is an obstacle. The obligation for levirate marriage falls first on another, closer kinsman, before it falls on Boaz. How will Boaz deal with the situation?

 

 

 

3. Accepting [v.10-15]

 

Ruth 3:10-13        10 “The LORD bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. 11 And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character. 12 Although it is true that I am near of kin, there is a kinsman-redeemer nearer than I. 13 Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to redeem, good; let him redeem. But if he is not willing, as surely as the LORD lives I will do it. Lie here until morning.” (NIV)

 

Boaz is not obliged to do anything for Ruth – He could have said “Go away and don’t bother me – your problems are none of my concern!” Boaz didn’t own Ruth anything.

The relationship between Boaz and Ruth is a picture of the relationship between God and us.

God owes us nothing. If we base our relationship with God purely on the Law we discover that we are cut off from any relationship with God other than punishment. When Adam and Eve rejected God’s instructions in the Garden of Eden and did their own thing they were removed from the Garden [the presence of God]. God was under no obligation to restore that relationship with them. But God never acts out of legalistic coldness and indifference BUT out of covenant love.

 

Law and Love.

 

The ‘levir’ and ‘goel’ was expected not just to act out of legalistic duty but out of a compassion for the oppressed and the poor and the needy.  The kinsman redeemer was to show faithful covenant love, a reflection of God’s love, – the kinsman needed the resources to meet the needs and also the willingness. The greater the redeemer’s resources the more he could do; but the greater his covenant love the more he wanted to do!!

 

Ruth could expect nothing from Boaz by right but she [and Naomi] believed that she could trust his loving mercy and compassionate generosity.

Boaz motivated by covenant love wants to redeem Ruth and enter into a loving relationship with her – but because there is a closer kinsman he must first fulfil the legal expectations. BUT he declares to Ruth in advance his desire and commitment to her!

 

In the Minds of some Christians there is a polarity between the Law of God in the OT and the Love of God in the NT. The Idea is that people in the OT came to God through keeping the Law of God but the NT people come through grace – God’s free gift of love.

However this is not what we find in Scripture!! The grace of God always precedes the Law.

  • Noah – “found grace in the eyes of the Lord”.
  • Abraham – God called him – God accepted him and called him His friend.
  • Israel – God rescued the Nation of Israel from slavery in Egypt and set his love upon them

— These happened before the Law was given to Moses. The 10 Commandments and others laws God gave his people were not so that they could become his people BUT rather were given to instruct those who were already his people how to live in close relationship with him. God’s Law is guidance on how to live in a loving relationship with a Loving God.

 

ILLUS. Consider marriage – there is little fulfilment and comfort in being legally married if there is no loving relationship. BUT following basic principles of faithfulness and commitment, unselfishness and trust are the “rules” which enhance and grow a marriage.

 

And so too with being a Christian we do not follow a set of Laws to come to Christ on the contrary we can only come by faith in Christ. However in coming into a relationship with Christ we need to follow his teaching. We need to be careful because it is very easy to be caught up in the teaching of Christianity / to be involved in Christian activity / to be serving in the Church.

BUT the most important thing that we need to remember is that Jesus loves us and has invited us in to relationship with – NT talks about us being “in Christ”

 

– It is a relationship. So the question is “Are you in love with Jesus?”

Oh you say “I believe in the gospel / I accept the teaching of the Bible / I enjoy coming to church and singing and being involved!”

FINE!! But do you love Jesus! Like with marriage – you fall in love and live by certain principles to develop and deepen the relationship but these are not chores but a delight – When you are in love the things you do / sacrifice for your beloved are not a drag but a pleasure.

 

This is why Jesus sums up the OT Law – quoting from the OT – with these words – Matthew 22:37-39 37 Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ (NIV)

Jesus spells out what the story of Boaz and Ruth illustrates – love is never less than the Law requires but always more. Love always goes beyond the law for the sake of the Loved Ones. Jesus goes beyond the legal code to the heart of the purposes of the law – viz. a right relationship!

 

Jesus told the people that they must be more righteous than the Pharisees and religious leaders who kept the legal code to the letter and even invented more laws of their own  –

Matthew 5:20 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (NIV)

The people didn’t understand that Jesus was talking a right relationship with him which far surpassed a keeping of legal codes.

The Law is there to give guidance on how to live in loving obedience with God.

 

To concentrate on ‘love’ alone can be used to cover all kinds of behaviour that “seems good” and “feels good”.  There is no guard against selfish- sinful behaviour or plain stupidity!

To concentrate on ‘Law’ alone apart from God grace expressed through the love of Jesus soon makes God’s laws in to legalism – morality becomes moralism – and the freedom of faith that we have in Christ becomes a burdensome struggle to kept a set of rules – which is exactly the bondage from which Christ came to set us free!!

 

When Boaz Says to Ruth “I will be your kinsman redeemer!” he is not just agreeing to fulfil a legalistic duty. It is deepest desire to have an intimate relationship with Ruth so that everything he is and has becomes hers.

 

ILLUS. Part of the marriage service captures this … “With my body I honour you, all that I am I give to you, all that I have I share with you, within the love of God, Father, Son and holy Spirit.”

 

Boaz gives Ruth a pledge that he will redeem her and make her his bride!

 

With that picture in mind listen to the NT about Christ and the Church – Romans 8:16-17 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (NIV)  –all that I have I share with you–

 

Ephesians 1:11-14       11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance [engagement ring – pledge] until the redemption of those who are God’s possession — to the praise of his glory.

 

Ephesians 5:25-27       25 ….. Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (NIV) — With my body I honour you, all that I am I give to you,

 

Revelation 19:6-7

6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:

“Hallelujah!                        For our Lord God Almighty reigns.

7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!

For the wedding of the Lamb has come,

and his bride has made herself ready. (NIV)

Revelation 21:2 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem [people of God – Church], coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. (NIV)

 

4. Awaiting [v. 16-18]

 

Ruth 3:16-18

16 When Ruth came to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “How did it go, my daughter?”

Then she told her everything Boaz had done for her 17 and added, “He gave me these six measures of barley, saying, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’ ”

18 Then Naomi said, “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today.” (NIV)

 

Boaz sends Ruth home in the morning with a gift of barley – probably as much as she could carry! This was a token of what was to come. Boaz had given his pledge – he had given a practical demonstration of his generosity and love and Ruth had to now WAIT and trust him to fulfil his promise –

 

Often in scripture we are told to wait / our human nature wants to be active, to be doing BUT there are times when God says “Wait on me!” Ruth had to wait patiently while Boaz work things out. There are times when we must work and take action as Ruth had done BUT now she had to wait. Jesus is at work in heaven interceeding on our behalf / The Holy Spirit is at work in the world and in us – there are times when we must wait patiently for the Lord’s time. He is working out his purposes in conformity to his perfect will [Phil.2v12-13; Heb.13v20-21]

 

Ruth had to wait– in the meantime she enjoyed Boaz’s provision.

 

In the OT God declared his love for mankind and promised to redeem – when Jesus came that promise was fulfilled and continues to be fulfilled in those who respond to his offer of a fulfilling relationship with Christ. It is Christ that God has set forth his purposes for the world. Ephesians 1:9-10 9 And he [God] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfilment — to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. (NIV)

 

It is in Christ that we come to realise that God is the Father of all mercies / the God of all comfort -–the one through whom our deepest needs are met!  The one through whom  -19 … God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (NIV) Philippians 4:19

 

As Boaz was Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer who would provide all her needs – so in a much greater way Christ is the real kinsman-redeemer who has entered / and still enters with us into the pains of our suffering / who brings us forgiveness / who desires a close, intimate, marriage-like relationship with us. He is the one who encourages us to trust our heavenly father for our daily bread and to AWAIT the time when we will be welcome as the bride into heaven to the marriage with the Lamb – the Lord Jesus Christ!

 

If Boaz promised to provide Ruth with food and shelter only – it would have be a cold and remote relationship. His promise was to take her as a wife to love, cherish in the intimacy of marriage.

 

In Christ this is what Christian can enjoy now – but will one day enjoy in a full and glorious way that we cannot now imagine!

 

So I end again with the question “Do you love Jesus?” – He loves you “Do you love him?” NOT “Do you love the religious activities and trapping of Christianity BUT DO YOU LOVE JESUS?”

 

 

Ruth 3:1-18

 

Sleepless in Bethlehem!!!

 

  • ‘levir’ – loosely meaning ‘brother-in-law’. The levirate regulates marriage customs when the man of the house dies.
  • ‘goel’ – is a near kinsman / relative who acts as redeemer of persons or property. The word means to ‘buy back’ or ‘redeem’

 

1. Advising [v.1-5]

 

2. Asking [v. 6-9]

 

3. Accepting [v.10-15]

    

 

 

4. Awaiting [v. 16-18]

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Do you love Jesus?”

Ruth 3:1-18 – Sleepless in Bethlehem! (part 1)

Ruth 3:1-18 [part1]

Sleepless in Bethlehem!!!

 

So Far …      … this is a story about a family that ran into major difficulties. Chapter 1 tells us that a man, Elimelech, and his wife, Naomi left Israel during a famine to make a new life in a foreign land. They had two sons – in Moab the two sons married local women and then one after another Elimelech and this two sons died leaving three widows. They returned to Bethlehem – Naomi and one faithful daughter-in-law, Ruth.

 

Back in Bethlehem we have these two widows – one old and one young – one a native Israelite and one an alien – both poor – both with faith in God in spite of Naomi’s feelings of bitterness she still believed

 

The God of Israel was a family God – He portrays himself to his people as both father and husband. One who cares and provides. These characteristics were to be reflected in the community of Israel who was the people of God. ……

BUT because God is concerned for the poor, the widows, the orphans and the foreigners he gave instructions to treat the poor with equality and generosity.

 

Naomi & Ruth know they can glean in the harvest fields because farmers were ordered by God to leave the edges of the field & the dropped grain for the poor.

Ruth happens to come to a field that is owned by a man named Boaz. Boaz notices Ruth – love at first-sight it seems – instructs his workers to be good to her, gives her lunch and sends her home with extra food.

When Ruth reports what happened to Naomi – this is her response….

Ruth 2:20   20 “The LORD bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers.” (NIV)

 

Boaz also happens to be a relative of Ruth’s late father-in-law. The Family tie means that he has a responsibility to Naomi and Ruth. We will see later in the story that there was a closer relative who is not esp. inclined to fulfil his responsibility. Boaz is not just concerned with the letter of the law but he goes beyond duty to generosity.

 

Ruth has trusted God and God has arranged things so that Boaz becomes the means by which God provides for Ruth and Naomi.

 

  • Why is Naomi so excited about the fact that Boaz is a relative?
  • What is the significance of this?

 

BACKGROUND – Ruth meets Boaz in the middle of the night – thus the title / From movie ‘Sleepless in Seattle’

 

In order to grasp the significance of what is happening in this chapter we need to know some background.

Two customs / laws in the life of ancient Israel that are crucial to understanding this passage but are strange to our modern thinking.

  • 1st – ‘levir’ – loosely meaning ‘brother-in-law’. The levirate regulates marriage customs when the man of the house dies.
  • 2nd – ‘goel’ – is a near kinsman / relative who acts as redeemer of persons or property. The word means to ‘buy back’ or ‘redeem’ – or basically to ‘protect’

 

LEVIR – this refers to the practice and the law about what was to happen when a man died leaving his wife a widow with no children.

Deuteronomy 25:5-10

5 If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfil the duty of a brother-in-law to her. 6 The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel.

7 However, if a man does not want to marry his brother’s wife, she shall go to the elders at the town gate and say, “My husband’s brother refuses to carry on his brother’s name in Israel. He will not fulfil the duty of a brother-in-law to me.” 8 Then the elders of his town shall summon him and talk to him. If he persists in saying, “I do not want to marry her,” 9 his brother’s widow shall go up to him in the presence of the elders, take off one of his sandals, spit in his face and say, “This is what is done to the man who will not build up his brother’s family line.” 10 That man’s line shall be known in Israel as The Family of the Unsandalled. (NIV)

 

This is strange to us but in the OT where the family name is important a dead man’s name and inheritance could continue in this way. It was also a way of protecting and providing for widows.

 

GOEL – seen in previous messages on Ruth the strong family ties amongst the people of God. A strong sense of duty to care for and protect and provide for each other. This was to reflect God’s care, protection and provision.

The ‘goel’ was a protector and the nearest kinsman / relative was to fulfil that role.

Leviticus 25:25  25 ” ‘If one of your countrymen becomes poor and sells some of his property, his nearest relative is to come and redeem what his countryman has sold. (NIV)

The ‘goel’ was also required to redeem the person who he had sold himself as a slave because he had fallen on hard times.

The ‘goel’ was to be an avenger of blood if one of his kinsman was unlawfully killed.

The ‘goel’ was to make restitution for the wrong caused by a kinsman.

 

The whole purpose was to show family solidarity and was a reminder of collective responsibility.

These duties must be seen against the background of the unique covenant that God / Yahweh had made with his people Israel.

The people belonged to God. The land belonged to God and was not to be sold in perpetuity. An impoverished Israelite who had sold himself as a slave was to be rescued because God had rescued his people from slavery in Egypt.

The ‘goel’s’ redemptive actions were a reflection of God rescuing / redeeming Israel from slavery in Egypt. They were also a foreshadowing / an illustration in advance of what Jesus Christ was to be 100’s of years later.

 

Let’s look at the story of Ruth and how this will give further insight into God as Redeemer.

 

  1. 1.     Advising [v.1-5]

Naomi desires to see her faithful and loving daughter-in-law safely settled and provided for. Her despair and despondency when she arrived back in Bethlehem has changed into new hope. Boaz is a near relative / a kinsman-redeemer / a goel.

Did Naomi know there was a kinsman nearer than Boaz? We can’t be sure. BUT Boaz certainly knew. So it seems that the author of this little book of Ruth wants us to understand that from this point on whatever action Boaz takes from now on is NOT done as a legal requirement but purely voluntarily and with generosity.

 

Farmers often used a common threshing place – high on a hill to catch the evening breeze – they would toss the wheat/barley into the air and the husks would blow away and the grain fall to the ground. They would stay over night to guard their crop.

 

Naomi knowing that Boaz will be at the threshing floor advises Ruth to prepare herself – (as a bride would prepare – Ezekiel 16) – and present herself to him that night. It was parental responsibility to arrange marriage so Naomi is simply fulfilling her role.

The purpose of all this is for Ruth to make clear to Boaz that she wants to marry him.

If a young widow in our time presented herself to an older, eligible man in this way we would question her morals and her motives – no doubt we would see her as pursuing a rich sugar Daddy.

There is no such idea in Ruth’s mind – She is concerned for Naomi. She is following a culturally acceptable practice that has been instituted in Israel by God.

Look at her response in – Ruth 3:5  “I will do whatever you say,” Ruth answered.

If Ruth had decided not to follow Naomi’s instruction – Why all this rigmarole? “I can approach Boaz in my own way!”

Many approach God in that way – “Surely I can come to God on my own terms.”  Salvation / Redemption is not a smorgasbord from which can pick and choose – God doesn’t want those who simply pay lip-service to him but rather those who do as he says. In our very individualistic / independent culture we are not very good at obedience! We pride ourselves on being independent thinkers and doers.

Jesus tells us:-Luke 6:46          46 “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? John 14:21 21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. … (NIV)

 

Ruth is an example of one who not only hears but obeys also.

 

  1. 2.     Asking [v. 6-9]

We are not sure what motivated Ruth beyond her loyalty to Naomi. From What Boaz says in v.10 we know that Ruth could have run after younger men. However she has become part of God’s covenant people and has learned the importance of preserving her late husband’s name and inheritance through an heir – Naomi is too old to produce an heir.

Ruth has come to understand that the good of the family name is important and is willing to play her part.

 

This is difficult for us to grasp – we are so individualistic – Easterners understand family honour far more than we do.

Spiritually speaking while it is true that God deals with us individually it is also and equally true that he deals with us in community.

We are his people – the church is the bride of Christ. The question is, “To what extend are we a community / body OR to what extent are we simply a collection of individual Christians?”

 

A part of the Covenant community of Yahweh Ruth is willing to play her part.

 

Harvest time was also time for a party – – after the party Ruth watched to see where Boaz slept and went and lay at his feet.

In the middle of the night Boaz wakes with a start –

 

ILLUS.: As Snoopy the dog in the PEANUTS cartoon once said “Life in full of rude awakening!”

This is not the first time a biblical character had a surprise awakening.

Adam woke to discover that he had been through surgery and acquired a wife while he slept!

Jacob woke up to discover that he had married the wrong woman!

 

You can imagine Boaz’s surprise – the tense whisperings as he tries to find out who she is and what she wants.

Ruth 3:9  “Who are you?” he asked. “I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.” (NIV)

Ruth 3:9 9 …: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman. (KJV)

 

Maybe it was leap year because she was asking him to marry her.

The Lord uses this same expression of “spreading the skirt over” with reference to Jerusalem – representing His people.

Ezekiel 16:8          8 ” ‘Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment [my skirt] over you and covered your nakedness. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign LORD, and you became mine. (NIV)

 

To spread your skirt / garment over someone was to claim the person for yourself – esp. in marriage.

 

Word for skirt similar [though not identical] to wings – Ruth 2:12  BOAZ SPEAKING TO RUTH _ 12 May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” (NIV)

 

Jesus uses similar imagery, also about Jerusalem -Luke 13:34

34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! (NIV)

 

What Ruth has a need to ask for Boaz desires to give and much more! As the story continues we will see that he is not simply concerned with fulfilling his minimum legal obligation. In fact he is not obliged to act as ‘Levir’ or ‘goel’ because he is not the nearest kinsman-redeemer.

It is clear that Boaz loves Ruth and wishes to provide for her and protect her. Her asking is based purely on grace she has no right.

Ruth protection under the wings of the God of Israel finds fulfilment under the garment of Boaz.

 

… ‘wings of refuge’ – The Bible gives this wonderful picture of God as an eagle caring for and protecting her young – Song of Moses – Deuteronomy 32:11 like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them on its pinions.

Psalmist – Psalm 17:8 …. hide me in the shadow of your wings (NIV)

Psalm 36:7-8 7 How priceless is your unfailing love!

Both high and low among men       find refuge in the shadow of your wings.

 

David the Psalmist learned that ultimately it is only God to whom we can look for provision and protection. No matter how much we have in terms of this world’s goods // or how many friends we may have there will come a time, even if it is only on our death bed, where we have to look to God alone. If we seek refuge only in people and things we will always eventually be disappointed BECAUSE even with the best will in the world our friends and resources cannot provide all we need.

 

How comforting was this for Ruth – a foreigner and a poor widow being assured that God cares; God provides!

 

In Ruth 2:12 12……… May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” (NIV)

 

Now it is through Boaz himself that God is beginning to answer that prayer.

Boaz was one of God’s covenant people and it is incumbent upon the people of God to both experience the refuge of God’s wings and to be ready to be the means by which others may experience it also.

If God has blessed us and we selfishly hoard those blessings for ourselves we are betraying our name CHRISTIAN.

 

Ruth entrusted herself to the grace of God –– God always meets our needs, whatever they are, as we take refuge under his wings. Boaz is a poor illustration of Jesus would late be – Our redeemer / one who is able to and willing to rescue and provide for all who come to him by faith.      [next time!!]

 

Jesus, Lover of my soul,

let me to your presence fly,

while the gathering waters roll,

while the tempest still is high.

Hide me, O my Saviour, hide,

till the storm of life is past;

safe into the haven, guide

and receive my soul at last.

2 Other refuge have I none,

all my hope in you I see:

leave, O leave me, not alone;

still support and strengthen me.

All my trust on you is stayed,

all my help from you I bring:

cover my defenceless head

with the shadow of your wing.

 

3 You, O Christ, are all I want,

more than all in you I find:

raise the fallen, cheer the faint,

heal the sick and lead the blind.

Just and holy is your name,

I am all unworthiness;

false and full of sin I am,

you are full of truth and grace.

4 Boundless grace with you is found,

grace to cover all my sin:

let the healing streams abound;

make and keep me clean within.

Living Fountain, now impart

all your life and purity;

spring for ever in my heart,

rise to all eternity!

Charles Wesley (1707-88)

  1. 3.     Accepting [v.10-15]
  2. 4.     Awaiting [v. 16-18]

 

 

Ruth 3:1-18

 

Sleepless in Bethlehem!!!

 

  • ‘levir’ – loosely meaning ‘brother-in-law’. The levirate regulates marriage customs when the man of the house dies.
  • ‘goel’ – is a near kinsman / relative who acts as redeemer of persons or property. The word means to ‘buy back’ or ‘redeem’

 

1. Advising [v.1-5]

 

2. Asking [v. 6-9]

 

3. Accepting [v.10-15]

 

4. Awaiting [v. 16-18]

Ruth 2:18-23 – Family Ties

Ruth 2v18-23

FAMILY TIES

INTRODUCTION.

 

One of the greatest needs a human being has is the need to ‘belong’. Belonging means that one is accepted, loved and appreciated!

One of the many heart cries of our society is loneliness – if you don’t believe me look at the local newspaper of get onto the internet and see the 1000’s of adverts in the “Lonely Hearts” / “Dating” section or go around visiting Homes for the Elderly.

People are lonely for all sorts of reasons but the basic reason is that they do not belong.

 

In OT times, as in the days of Ruth, not to belong to a family meant isolation, insecurity and usually poverty.

 

So Far …      … this is a story about a family that ran into major difficulties. Chapter 1 tells us that a man, Elimelech, and his wife, Naomi left Israel during a famine to make a new life in a foreign land. They had two sons – in Moab the two sons married local women and then one after another Elimelech and this two sons died leaving three widows. They returned to Bethlehem – Naomi and one faithful daughter-in-law, Ruth.

Was the plight of this family because they made bad choices or was it simply that they were the victims of the circumstances of life beyond their control? We can’t know for sure!

Back in Bethlehem we have these two widows – one old and one young – one a native Israelite and one an alien – both poor – both with faith in God in spite of Naomi’s feelings of bitterness she still believed.

 

Being a Christian doesn’t mean that we don’t have feelings of bitterness / anger / sorrow / disappointment ……but it means believing and trusting God in spite of our feelings and adverse circumstances of life.

 

The God of Israel was a family God – He portrays himself to his people as both father and husband. One who cares and provides. These characteristics were to be reflected in the community of Israel who was the people of God. Indeed it is God’s intention that these characteristics be in all communities and families. Sadly we know that that is not always true because as human beings we are basically selfish and we look after No.1!

BUT because God is concerned for the poor, the widows, the orphans and the foreigners he gave instructions to treat the poor with equality and generosity.

 

  1. 1.     Being part of God’s Family means Living by Faith in God.

 

Naomi & Ruth know they can glean in the harvest fields because farmers were ordered by God to leave the edges of the field & the dropped grain for the poor.

To live by faith means to take God at his word and to act upon it – “Faith without works is dead” the bible tells us in James 2v20.

Ruth knew God had said he would care for the poor but she didn’t sit around waiting to breakfast to fall from heaven. She set out to glean in the fields – she did what she could do and trusted God for what she couldn’t do. She was not responsible to make the harvest grow / nor was she responsible if a farmer was too miserly to leave gleaning.

 

Ruth happens to come to a field that is owned by a man named Boaz. He also happens to be a relative of her late father-in-law. The Family tie means that he has a responsibility to Naomi and Ruth. We will see later in the story that there was a closer relative who is not esp. inclined to fulfil his responsibility. Boaz is not just concerned with the letter of the law but he goes beyond duty to generosity.

 

Ruth has trusted God and God has arranged things so that Boaz becomes the means by which God provides for Ruth.

 

Living by faith means that we trust God, we pray, we make decisions  (and sometimes we make mistakes) but it is God who orders events and guides his willing children.

 

  1. 2.     Being part of God’s Family means Living by the Grace of God.

 

When Ruth set out that morning to glean she was looking for someone to show her kindness – grace. Ruth 2:10-13       10 At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She exclaimed, “Why have I found such favour in your eyes that you notice me — a foreigner?” ……. 13 “May I continue to find favour in your eyes, my lord,” she said. “You have given me comfort and have spoken kindly to your servant — though I do not have the standing of one of your servant girls.”

 

This story is a wonderful picture of the race of God.

Grace is favour shown to someone you doesn’t deserve it and can’t earn it.

It is easy to be kind to those we like – those from whom we can gain something.

ILLUS.: Employers are kind to employees as long as they serve their purposes. People are kind and loving towards their partners until he/she no longer meets their needs and then they conveniently abandon them.

 

Grace is giving / forgiving / unselfish – if not it is not grace!

The channel of God’s grace to Ruth was through Boaz. It is clear from what we know of Boaz that he knew something of God’s grace in his own life and thus he is willing to act graciously towards Ruth.

 

We looked at some of these things last time. What we did not do was see how they illustrate the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Christian. Often in the OT we have stories that illustrate a deeper spiritual meaning in the NT.

What does this story teach us abot the grace of God.

 

a)     God takes the initiative.

Ruth 2:8      8 So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with my servant girls. (NIV)

Boaz goes to Ruth – he takes the initiative. That is what God does with us. God makes the first move and comes to our aid – not because we deserve it but because he is gracious. The Bible tells us that we are spiritually dead (Eph 2). It tells us that we are sinners with no power to rescue ourselves and that we are naturally God’s enemies. Romans 5:6-10

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 …… 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ……. 10 For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (NIV)

 

Boaz knew about Ruth and her plight and he took steps to rescue her – that is how the story unfolds. He wasn’t obliged to / he wanted to.

God is not obliged to do anything for us but he has taken the initiative.

How?

 

b)    God has spoken / is speaking to us.

Ruth 2:8 So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with my servant girls. (NIV)

 

Boaz spoke to her first. Ruth was a poor foreigner – what right did she have to address a man like Boaz – the owner of the harvest? Yet Boaz interrupts his conversation with his foreman to speak to this poor stranger gleaning in his field.

 

ILLUS.: Imagine if you were standing outside Buckingham Palace on the day of the Opening of Parliament. The Queen’s carriage drives by and stopped and the Queen looks straight at you and calls you by name.

 

Now the Queen has never spoken to me and is not likely to BUT Almighty God has spoken to me in Jesus Christ and through his word the Bible!!

Hebrews 1:1-2    1 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, …… (NIV)

And God still speaks today – What God says is that he wants us to come to him. The Bible tells us that he wants to give us a full / meaningful life that begins now and goes on forever! Jesus is the “Lord of the Harvest” and he has a place in his field for all of us if we will listen to him speaking to us and do what he says.

What is he saying?

Romans 3:23 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (NIV)

Matthew 11:28-29         28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (NIV)

John 3:16 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (NIV)

 

c)     God offers protection and provision.

 

Ruth 2:9 9 Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the girls. I have told the men not to touch you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.” (NIV)

Ruth 2:14-16        14 At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar.”

When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and had some left over. 15 As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, “Even if she gathers among the sheaves, don’t embarrass her. 16 Rather, pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.” (NIV)

 

Boaz offers her water for her thirst / food for her hunger / rest when she id weary / protection from harm. In fact he ate with her and personally handed her the food.

This is a wonderful picture of the God of grace – The master becomes like a servant so he can show his love to a stranger / foreigner. Ruth took Boaz at his word and was wonderfully provided for.

Jesus Christ came into the world as a servant – he was not to proud to serve. Jesus said of himself…Matthew 20:28 28 .. the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (NIV)

We are undeserving foreigners but he is willing / he desires to share his riches with us!! 2 Corinthians 8:9 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (NIV)

Philippians 4:19 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

 

ILLUS.: according to his riches – if I give a beggar £1 or even £10 that would be according to my riches. IF Bill Gates of MircoSoft – the computer software giant worth billions of $$ gave £10 that would not be according to his riches!!

 

You may be thinking but my life as a Christian is not a bed of roses – it is tough. Yes life can be and often is difficult but in the midst of it we can have peace with God, contentment in spite of circumstances and even material blessing BUT the greatest thing is that the best is yet to come!

 

There is hope for the future beyond this life

 

  1. 3.     Being part of God’s Family means Living with Hope in God.

 

At the end of her day of gleaning Ruth returns to her mother-in-law and recounts the days events.

Naomi’s response is very different from chapter 1 where she describes herself as bitter! Now…Ruth 2:19-20      19 …    Then Ruth told her mother-in-law about the one at whose place she had been working. “The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz,” she said.

20 “The LORD bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers.” (NIV)

Having heard who this man is you can hear the hope returning to Naomi.

Here is someone who is family and has the where-with-all to provide for their future needs – but what is more he has already shown his kindness / he has taken a personal interest in Ruth / he has shown a desire to provide for their wellbeing / this gives great hope for the days ahead.

 

Those who believe in Jesus Christ should also rejoice in hope! When we consider who he is and what he has done that gives hope for the future. As we look back and read the OT and see what God promised we see how in Jesus Christ he did what he said he would do.

He said he would send a redeemer who would die in our place to rescue us from sin – to breach the gulf between us and God  – that he would rise from the dead. He did what he said. This same God says that Jesus will return and then all who have believed in Him will live with him, under his protection and provision, in a perfect environment, forever.

 

For the Christian hope is not a shallow ‘hope-so’ feeling generated by optimistic fantasies. Hope is an inner sense of assurance and confidence as we trust God’s promises and face the future with his help.

Now matter how we may feel today, no matter how difficult our circumstances may be, we can have hope if we focus our faith on Jesus Christ. If we focus our hope and security in this world we will always, ultimately be disappointed. Right now you may have good health, good relationships and a stable financial base – that’s great – God is not against that he gave them to you. BUT your health will eventually fail / sooner or later your friends and family will be taken from you or you from them / and you can’t take your money with you when you die!!

ILLUS.: After one of the Rockafellas [sp?] died a reporter asked his lawyer “How much did he leave?” The Lawyer replied “He left everything!”

 

The small amount of grain that Ruth gleaned that day would be gone in a week BUT it represented the ‘Firstfruits’ of all the Boaz would do for her and Naomi in the future.

When a person come to Jesus Christ by faith God gives us a gift – His Holy Spirit – which doesn’t last for a week but forever. BUT it is just a down payment.

Ephesians 1:13-14 13 …. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession — to the praise of his glory.

deposit – engagement ring – promise that the groom will return to claim his bride. {Bible likens Church to bride  / Christ to bridegroom – and talks about a glorious weeding feast in heaven}

There is a glorious future for the Christian beyond this life – hope! We know at an earthly level when people loose hope they stop living BUT if our hope is only in this world then it is very small!

 

However it is not just “pie in the sky when you die” – As with Ruth and Naomi God is concerned about the here and now as well. We are talking about God as Father and being part of his family –

Luke 12:6-7 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 … Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (NIV)

 

Do you have Faith in God? Have you experienced the grace of God? Do you have hope in God for the future?

 

All these things are available to everyone – Because God is a loving Father who desires to bring us into his family.

 

 

FAMILY TIES

 

Ruth 2

 

1.       Being part of God’s Family means Living by Faith in God.

 

2.       Being part of God’s Family means Living by the Grace of God.

 

  • God takes the initiative.
  • God has spoken / is speaking to us.
  • God offers protection and provision.

 

3.       Being part of God’s Family means Living with Hope in God.

 

 

Ruth 2:1-13 – Grace is never late!

Ruth 2v1-13

 

Grace is never late!

 

Introduction.

 

The story so far…

…famine in Israel – a certain man from Bethlehem and his wife and two sons go to Moab – the man, Elimelech, and his two sons die in Moab and his widow, Naomi, and two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah who are Moabitesses are left destitute and alone. They set out to return to Israel but Naomi persuades Orpah to return to her family. Ruth however refuses to leave Naomi and the two return to Bethlehem – the famine is now over but these two women have nothing!

 

We know from the end of chapter 1 that the barley harvest has just begun.

 

  1. 1.     An open secret. (1)

 

Illus.: TV quiz shows – the audience and viewers are told the answer in advance but not the contestants.

 

Well we have a similar technique with Ruth 2:1  Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, from the clan of Elimelech, a man of standing, whose name was Boaz. (NIV)

 

At this point in the story neither Naomi nor Ruth know that within reach of their home there lived a man of considerable wealth and influence who was related to them – he was a relative / kinsman of Naomi’s late husband Elimelech. It is only at the end of her first day of gleaning when Ruth tells Naomi about her encounter with Boaz that the full significance of there relationship to him dawn on the two women.

 

Who is Boaz and why is this information so significant?

 

Two things we are told – he is a relative – he is a man of standing.

 

He is a relative – Family ties in the OT were very important. The family had much wider meaning in OT than does our meaning of a modern nuclear family. Families were united together by blood ties / and also by living under the same roof. Being tied to a family also meant being tied to the family land.

Family ties were closely linked with economic and social stability.

If we are wise we realise that the same is true today – I fear for the future of the Western world where family ties are weak – where fierce individualism takes priority over community – these things will eventually lead to economic and social breakdown.

 

He is a man of standing – The word used here to describe Boaz has various meanings:

  • A valiant man – as of Gideon, a mighty man of valour.
  • A man of substance / riches.
  • A man of moral worth /virtue – indeed use of Ruth in 3v11

These add up to Baoz being a man of integrity / influence / means.

 

  1. 2.     Providential Coincidences. (2-3)

 

OT law made provision for the poor, the needy and the stranger. Gleaning is an example: Leviticus 19:9-10

9 ” ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God. (NIV)

 

This concern for the vulnerable and needy of the world reflects the character of God. Because God is a God who rescues slaves (as Israel from Egypt) who cares for the poor, helpless, needy, so the socio-economic laws of the land are to express this human concern. The land and the people belong to God and their pattern of life is to reflect his nature. This is the principle behind the Year of Jubilee – where the land is again fairly distributed.

It is a reminder that ultimately God owns the land and all its resources and we are at best just stewards of his provision. This raises significant issues for Christians (God’s people) living in rich Western Countries which have a Christian heritage – are we not under obligation to relieve the plight of the poor and needy and suffering of God’s world?

 

In spite of the gleaning law it was only helpful to the poor if the landowner obeyed it graciously – Ruth understood this: Ruth 2:2

2 And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favour.”

If it was law why did Ruth need to find a gracious landowner?  Because an unscrupulous owner could make life difficult for the gleaners – Surely the purpose of being in business – farming or otherwise – is to maximise profits. It is not enough to make a profit they have to squeeze out every penny even at the expense of the poor and needy. Is there a message here from God to companies who exploit poor workers to appease fat-cat shareholders? Is there a message for the rich nations in their treatment of the poorer ones?

ILLUS.: When a country like Mozambique is spending more on interest payment to Western Banks than on care of their own people then something is not right –

 

I believe that the Church / Christians have a responsibility to speak to these issues.

 

Ruth 2:3 3 So she went out and began to glean in the fields behind the harvesters. As it turned out, [it happened] she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech. (NIV)

 

She ‘happened’ to go to a field belonging to Boaz – we, the readers, know that this was no accidental happening – What to Ruth was coincidence in an unplanned set of circumstances was in fact the outworking of God’s providential care. Or as the song puts it “He’s got the whole wide world in His hands”. All the events of this world’s apparent chance are in the hands of God who has a purpose for his world –

– or a the Apostle Paul puts it …Ephesians 1:9-10 9 …, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfilment — to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. (NIV)

God is sovereign and he will fulfil his purposes HOWEVER we must not think of God’s plans as static and deterministic. People are not divine puppets!

 

In fact the Bible teaches that human choices and responsibilities are very much our concern – God is sovereign but we are responsible for our decisions and actions.

 

The story of Ruth clearly shows this. God’s gracious providence does not over-ride human decision.

We see Ruth’s request to go and glean, Naomi’s encouragement, Ruth’s apparent arbitrary choice to glean in Boaz’s field, Boaz’s free choice to harvest his field at that time – all these are huamn free choice which God uses as instruments in his hand.

God is at work to will and to do of His good pleasure.

Our coincidences, our accidents and even our mistakes God can and does use for His purposes and for our good.

 

ILLUS.: When we arrived in UK – happened to have acquaintances at Hindhead – who happened to invites us for a weekend – at their church we happened to meet a lady who had a house to rent in Godalming. Janet happened to meet Rachel at a hospital staff meeting in Midhurst and happened to mention that I had trained as a pastor at a time when George happened to decide it was time to retire as pastor ….

 

  1. 3.     Grace …

…rights and responsibilities.

 

We now have unfolded before us the circumstances surrounding the meeting of Ruth and Boaz.

We have seen Boaz as a man of integrity – now we see him as a man who openly expresses his dependence on God and his faith in God by caring for Ruth. He doesn’t stand on his rights he goes way beyond what the law required – Grace is motivated by love NOT law!

Ruth 2:8-9             8 So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with my servant girls. 9 Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the girls. I have told the men not to touch you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.” (NIV)

Later he instructs his men to deliberately drop grain for Ruth to pick up.[v15-16]

 

Ruth also shows the evidence of grace in her life by accepting her responsibilities and refusing to stand on her rights.

Ruth 2:7-13 7 She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.’ ….

10 .., she bowed down with her face to the ground. ….

13 “…. — though I do not have the standing of one of your servant girls.”

 

Ruth had the right to glean, she did not need to ask permission – but she has humility and a respect that doesn’t presume to stand on her rights.

And when permission is granted first by the foreman and later by Boaz Ruth is grateful and humble in her acceptance of care.

It doesn’t only take grace to give – grace is also needed to receive. If we are those who will never accept help / care / appreciation from others we are very ungracious – if we think we are so self-sufficient that no-one has anything to offer us then we are probably proud and ungracious.

 

IF we are God’s people then the grace of God needs to be reflected in us. Jesus was gracious – he didn’t stand on his rights but gave them up in his responsibility as Redeemer.

He also was gracious enough to receive – water from the women at the well – perfume anointing from the woman with the alabaster box – foot washing from the town prostitute – hospitality from Mary, Martha and Lazarus ….

 

Don’t be too mean to give – Don’t be too proud to receive!

 

 

…Recommendation and Reward.

 

Ruth 2:5-7             5 Boaz asked the foreman of his harvesters, “Whose young woman is that?”           6 The foreman replied, “She is the Moabitess who came back from Moab with Naomi. 7 She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.’ She went into the field and has worked steadily from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.” (NIV)

 

Ruth was not looking for a free ride – she was prepared to work hard without drawing attention to herself or expecting special favours – she didn’t want a handout if she was able to help herself. BUT is was not a cocky arrogance – “I can make it on my own and I don’t need help from anyone”

There are three things that the foreman reports to Boaz that commends Ruth:-

  • Loyalty – to Naomi – she had left her own people in Moab / her loyalty was at cost to herself. Does our commitment to what we say we believe only go as far as our comfort zone or is it an unconditional loyalty to Jesus.
  • Humility – she did not presume upon her rights to glean, she asked permission. She was prepared to do the menial tasks – In God’s kingdom there is no shortage of people wanting the limelight and the recognition. The test is “Am I prepared to do the menial task that no one sees or thanks me for?”
  • Tenacity – she stuck at it all day in spite of the fact that gleaning is discouragingly unrewarding. How is you stickability at the difficult, unrewarding tasks?

 

In Ruth case someone did notice these characteristics – Boaz was a spiritually observant man – his greeting to his workers in verse 4 “The Lord be with you!” shows his sensitivity to the fact that he lived in the presence of God.

So he says to Ruth – Ruth 2:12 12 May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, ….

 

The idea of doing good / being good in order to be reimbursed / rewarded makes us uncomfortable because it does not fit with the Bible’s teaching that grace is free and salvation cannot be earned. However the words Boaz uses here mean more than simply material remuneration – they included a sense of peace and making good what has been lost.

Naomi’s and Ruth’s lost was more than material – it was a loss of peace and security that family brings / it was a loss of relationship and a place in the community. Boaz prayer is that God will restore to Ruth these things and more.

 

Jesus warned against doing good in order to be rewarded – But he did teach that there are rewards for those who do good unselfishly for the benefit of others and for the glory of God. The rewards are primarily in relationship with him – peace with God.

“An enriched relationship with God is the ‘proper reward’ of loving obedience to him in response to his gracious initiative of love. We see something like this in his words to Abram Genesis 15:1.., the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”

 

Boaz’s prayer for Ruth is that in her new found faith she would experience an enriched relationship with the God of Israel in whom she had placed her trust.

 

… ‘wings of refuge’.

 

The Bible gives this wonderful picture of God as an eagle caring for and protecting her young – Song of Moses – Deuteronomy 32:11 like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them on its pinions.

SAFETY – Psalmist – Psalm 17:8 …. hide me in the shadow of your wings (NIV)

REFRESHMENT – Psalm 36:7-8 7 How priceless is your unfailing love!

Both high and low among men       find refuge in the shadow of your wings.

8 They feast in the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. (NIV)

STILLNESS IN THE STORM – Psalm 57:1

1 […] “Do Not Destroy”. Of David. ... When he had fled from Saul into the cave.]

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me,

for in you my soul takes refuge.

I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings

until the disaster has passed. (NIV)

HELP AND RELAXATION – Psalm 63:7  Because you are my help, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.

HOPE IN THE MIDST OF UNFAVOURABLE CIRCUMSTANCES – Psalm 91:1-4  1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress,          my God, in whom I trust.”      3 …             4 He will cover you with his feathers,        and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

 

Safety, refreshment, relaxation, help, hope, stillness – these are associated with God’s wings.

There is a basic human longing for God – picture in the Prodigal Son longing for home – capture in the words of St. Augustine “The heart finds no peace until it finds its rest in God”.

 

How comforting was this for Ruth – a foreigner and a poor widow Being assured that God is there; God cares; God rules; God provides!

 

As the rest of the story unfolds we find that in fact it is through Boaz himself that God answers this prayer.

Boaz was one of God’s covenant people and it is incumbent upon the people of God to both experience the refuge of God’s wings and to be ready to be the means by which others may experience it also.

If God has blessed us and we selfishly hoard those blessings for ourselves we are betraying our name CHRISTIAN.

 

Ruth entrusted herself to the grace of God – Grace is never late – God always meets our needs, whatever they are, as we take refuge under his wings.

 

Under his wings I am safely abiding,

Tho’ the night deepens and tempests are wild;

Still I can trust him – I know he will keep me,

He has redeemed me and I am his child.

 

Under his wings , under his wings,

Who from his love can severe?

Under his wings my soul shall abide,

safely abide forever.

 

Under his wings, what a refuge in sorrow!

How the heart yearningly turns to his rest!

Often when earth has no balm for my healing,

There I find comfort and there I am blest.

 

Under his wings, O what precious enjoyment!

There will I hide till life’s trials are o’er;

Sheltered, protected, no evil can harm me,

Resting in Jesus I am safe evermore.

William O Cushing 1823-1902

 

 

 

GRACE IS NEVER LATE!

 

RUTH 2V1-13

1.       AN OPEN SECRET. v1

 

Boaz…

      … he is a relative

      … he is a man of standing

2.       PROVIDENTIAL COINCIDENCES. v2-3

God’s sovereignty

Human responsibility

 

  1. 3.       GRACE… v4-13

 

… rights and responsibilities

… recommendation and reward

… ‘wings of refuge’

  • safety
  • refreshment
  • stillness in the storms of life
  • help and relaxation
  • hope amid adverse circumstances

 

Ruth 1:8-22 – Trusting God in the midst of disaster and disappointment

Ruth 1v8-22

Trusting God in the midst of disaster and disappointment

 

Introduction.

Some people grow up in a stable home – they always have enough – they get through school without much difficulty / get a qualification / find a good job / get married / have their own children etc… they never seem to have major crises through illness or redundancy or children trouble etc…

They could claim it is because they manage life well – OR we could say they are just very fortunate.

Others seem to go from one crisis to another – We may point a finger and say they made bad choices – OR we could say they are very unfortunate.

Naomi seems to have gone from crisis to crisis. Caught in the midst of a famine – moves to Moab. Was she party to the decision or simply a victim? Then her husband and two sons die and she is left a widow in a foreign country.

  • How is Naomi to respond to her plight?
  • How will she pick up the pieces of her life?
  1. 1.     Prayer and Providence – v.8-9a.

Ruth 1:8-9             8 Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the LORD show kindness to you, as you have shown to your dead and to me. 9 May the LORD grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”….

In spite of the hardships and heartaches that Naomi has endured there is still evidence that she has a strong faith in God.

Faith in God is not evidenced by a life of ease but more often in adversity.

If your life is easy it is not necessarily a sign of God’s favour.

In the midst of her suffering Naomi prays. Note that her prayer is not for herself.

It is clear that Naomi and her two daughters-in-law have formed a close bond and so her pray is for them.

We saw last week that behind the events of human history, including our individual lives, is the providence of God.

  • If God is going to providentially act what is the point of prayer?

Prayer and providence are the two sides of the same coin.

Belief in the providence of God is not fatalism – it is faith.

It is belief in a God who rules / cares / provides and based on that we are prepared to do something – namely speak to him.

Providence reminds us of a number of things –

  • That we are creatures dependent on God
  • That because God is working out his purposes life is not meaningless – thus prayer is a way of expressing our conviction in a God who has a perfect plan.
  • That God is a God of grace – prayer is our way of responding to him as children to a father.
  • That God is a loving father NOT an irresistible fate – before whom we can only keep silent and be passive. He invites us to share fellowship with him in prayer.

We pray according to God’s will – not the other way around. It is we who are challenged in prayer.

The purpose of prayer is not to mould God to our desires but that we will be conformed to his will. We are to express our trust in God’s providence and discover how our wills are to be more and more aligned to his will for us.

So Naomi prays expressing her trust and committing her future and the future of her two daughters-in-law to God.

She asks for two things:-

  • That they may experience God’s kindness
  • That God may give them a home.

God’s kindness – the word used here is very interesting and full – used in reference to the covenant relationship God has with his people. Ref. to hi steadfast love and faithfulness.

The NT equivalent would be the word agape – God’s self-giving love – which he desires we emulate.

1 John 4:10-11 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (NIV)

Naomi trusts in God’s care – her desire is that Ruth and Orpah return to their people and remarry.

a home – To understand the full significance of Naomi’s prayer we must understand the circumstances of the time. A woman’s status was tied up with her husband. A widow was in a very precarious position as they had no right of inheritance – to a widow was to be lonely, abandoned and helpless. For these to Moabites women the prospects for remarriage in Israel were remote.

We can see how radical the gospel was in treating men and woman with equal status. (Jesus and Paul)

We can see why Naomi was so keen to persuade them to return and what commitment Ruth showed by refusing to leave Naomi.

  1. 2.     Parting and Pain.

Ruth 1:9-14 9 ……Then she kissed them and they wept aloud 10 and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”

11 But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? 12 Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me — even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons — 13 would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD’s hand has gone out against me!”

14 At this they wept again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye, but Ruth clung to her. (NIV)

There was a law in Israel that if a brother died leaving no heir his widow should be married by his surviving brother/s and produce an heir for his deceased brother – Levirate.

Naomi is expressing here the hopelessness of Ruth’s and Orpah’s situation – and indeed of her own. No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because [for your sake that] the LORD’s hand has gone out against me!”

Naomi’s pain is for them as well as herself – the pain of bereavement / the pain of impending parting. She is bitter / angry / hurt yet she still acknowledges God.

There is a truthfulness in her / no hiding of her feeling before God / no pretence / no stiff upper lip of stoicism.

She may feel bitter and angry BUT there is still faith in his providential care despite her feelings.

Have we forgotten how to be emotional / to mourn and weep / to express our deepest feelings. I suggest that we hide behind masks of self-respect and sanctimonious super-spirituality.

Do you ever feel angry with God – yet feel guilty about it – hide it – cover it in a cloak of passive fatalistic acceptance.

ILLUS.: When is was in Hospital I was angry and in pain and I did not want to talk to God>>>

Bereavement is real – Jesus wept – pain is real. Disappointment is real. Let us not pretend that these things don’t hurt – OR have we become so hardened / developed such a protective shell that we are incapable of showing real emotion.

Have we forgotten how to cry?

Naomi reminds us that our deepest feelings are not hidden from God. It was God’s hand behind the famine and deaths. YET Naomi is still able to express her faith in the use of God’s covenant name – Yahweh – the LORD.

Can you be honest with God about how you feel and yet despite all your feeling still express your faith, no matter how feeble, in God’s covenant keeping love and care?

  1. 3.     Purpose and Promise.

Ruth 1:14-18

14 …….but Ruth clung to her.

15 “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”

16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” 18 When Naomi realised that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her. (NIV)

We could say that Orpah showed her love for Naomi by complying with her wish that she return to her own people.

On the other hand Ruth shows her love by refusing to leave Naomi and her willingness or rather determination to share Naomi’s future – her travel/ Where you go I will go – her home/ where you stay I will stay – her faith / Your people will be my people and your God my God.

Her PURPOSE is resolute – to follow Naomi and esp. Naomi’s God.

Her PROMISE is an oath before God that he will severely deal with her if she deviates from that purpose to follow.

Ruth is determined that nothing will separate them – not even death. At the heart of Ruth love and commitment to Naomi is that fact that she has a commitment to Naomi’s God.

Ruth has observed Naomi through all the difficulties and trials – she has listened to explanations about the God of Israel – she has seen her faith in God. As God’s people endure trials and keep their faith they are a witness to the unbelieving world – they are pointers to God and his faithfulness.

Here before us the Lord is bringing Ruth to faith – surely using the experiences of Naomi.

ILLUS.: When we first came to the UK. – Lived with Andy – Testified at his baptism that this was a factor in drawing him to Jesus. IN spite of our difficulties and weak testimony at the time.

A comfortable and easy Christian life will make us fat and unfit spiritually.

Through Naomi’s testimony in adversity – in spite of her feelings / in spite of her feeble faith at times no doubt– Ruth came to trust the God of Israel.

  1. 4.     Pleasant and Bitter.

 

Ruth 1:19-22 19 So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”

20 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. 21 I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”

22 So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning. (NIV)

With Ruth’s determination to go with Naomi – Naomi capitulates and the two travel back to Bethlehem.

The women of the town are stirred up and gossip!

Naomi explains her plight – maybe they could see her bitterness on her face.

Naomi’s name means ‘Pleasant’ – but she asks to be called ‘Mara’ – bitter.

NOTE that she refers to God as the ALMIGHTY – – El Shaddai. It could come from the word meaning mountain – expressing something that is durable, solid and trustworthy.

It is the name God uses when he tells Abram at 99 years old that he will bless him with a son. It is a name that tells us that God is at his best when man is at his worst – (Motyer).

Some think that Shaddai could come from the word for ‘breast’.

If that is true we have this picture of a God who is strong and trustworthy and dependable like a like a Swiss Alp – AND a God who is tender and loving like a mother with a baby at her breast.

It is as though Naomi is saying to the people of Bethlehem: “You can see the bitterness I have experienced: The Famine, the bereavements, the questionings, the partings, the apparent hopelessness; but I know God as Shaddai, and I can leave the explanations, and even the responsibility of the bitterness with him” (David Atkinson)

It this a cop out on Naomi’s part? Is she passing the buck and blaming God? Is she wrong to think like this?

I think she is being real and honest! Who can make sense of earthly suffering – The Psalmist cried out in despair, “Why do the wicked prosper?”

I think we can learn from Naomi to place in the hands of God the things we cannot and do not understand from an earthly point of view.

Naomi knows that Shaddai is the one with whom she can leave her bitterness BUT he is also the one – Yahweh the covenant God of his people – who has brought her safely home.

Life is full of “WHY’s”. They don’t make sense and we don’t always find answers. BUT God is not remote and detached – just like he wasn’t unconcerned about Naomi and her daughters-in-law. We have a perspective that Naomi never had – the cross of Christ.

God enters our world as a suffering servant to take our sin and our pain. He comes to our level and he invites us to place our sin and our pain on Him.

Is this not what we read in those psalm where the Psalmist in expressing anger at God for the injustices he sees. We see in Jeremiah, the prophet angry at God.

Sometimes we are too hard on Naomi – criticising her for becoming bitter. BUT I think we can learn from Naomi as one who learned to take all her feelings and failings to – to be open and honest – not hiding behind a super-spiritual veneer.

We see in Naomi a deep faith in God shining against the dark background of her troubles. She has seen the Lord restore Bethlehem / she recognises the hand of God behind her bitter experiences / she seeks his protection and provision for her daughters-in-law / she honestly acknowledges her pain.

The rest of the Book will focus on Ruth and Boaz but Naomi has been the agent of God’s providential blessing to others. Is my life / your life a channel of God’s blessing to others in the midst of both Pleasant and Bitter experiences of Life.

 

 

Trusting God in the midst of disaster

and disappointment

Ruth 1v8-22

 

 

1. Prayer and Providence – v.8-9a.

2. Parting and Pain – v.9b-14a.

3. Purpose and Promise – v.14b-18.

4. Pleasant and Bitter – v.19-22.

Ruth 1:1-7 – God is a God of New Beginnings

Ruth 1v1-7.

 

God is a God of New Beginnings.

 

Introduction.

 

When you watch TV, or listen to the radio, or read your newspapers and you learn about the macro issues of life – International politics / multinational conglomerates / vast amounts of money that sound unreal. Do you ever ask yourself “Well who am I anyway?” “Does my life have any significance in the midst of all this?”

If that is how you feel / have felt at times then this little Book of Ruth will be a great encouragement to you.

 

Ruth 1:1  In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a [certain] man from Bethlehem in Judah, …. (NIV)

 

We will look in a moment at the background of the Days of the Judges – BUT grasp the significance of this statement. Against the background of national and international wars, political manoeuvring and natural disasters the story focuses on a certain man and his family. Not on the King of the military leaders but Joe Public.

 

If the Book of Ruth teaches us anything – and it teaches many things – it teaches us that God is interested in the lives of individuals and families. He is interested in what happens to YOU!

 

The Book of Ruth is a story about very ordinary people facing very ordinary events. Economic hardships / moving house / marriage / death / ……

 

Background.

 

Ruth 1:1  In the days when the judges ruled, ……

 

What was it like in the time of the Judges. The Israelites had been rescued from slavery in Egypt / wandered for 40 years in the desert / they had captured the land of Palestine under Joshua. After they were a kind of confederation of tribes

Led by Judges – not legal courtroom judges but political-Military leaders.

They were not a cohesive nation util the time of King Saul.

During this time the Israelites had to learn to settle into an agricultural lifestyle as a nation under God while surrounded by Canaanite tribes and culture.

 

The challenges that the people of God faced then are very similar to the challenges the Church faces today.

 

 

Challenge #1. The lure of other deities.

 

What they desired is what people today want – they wanted to find the secret of prosperity / they want a sound economy / a good standard of living / etc…

Theirs was, of course, a agricultural economy therefore they needed fertile land, fertile animals and fertile marriages to provide workers in due course to work the farms.

The Canaanites believed in the fertility god Baal and his female partner Ashtaroth. The fertility or barrenness of nature was linked to the sexual intercourse of Baal and Ashtaroth. The worshippers were not just spectators in all this – their desire was to bring to the attention of these fertility gods the needs of the land and animals. They did this by imitating what they believed Baal and Ashtaroth should be doing. Thus on hilltop all over the land in full view of the gods male and female cult prostitutes engaged in all manner of sexual activities with the worshippers.

 

This proved appealing to many Israelites and they turned away from the true and living God to these false gods to provide their needs.

God had promised to bless Israel if they remained faithful to him BUT the lure of the other gods was too strong.

 

Our society doesn’t worship Baal and Ashtaroth – But what about humanism [man-centredness], materialism [people and things are valued by their monetary worth] and naturalism [this world is all there is and it happened by chance]?

Even as Christian we are prone to forget that it is not sound economics / a free market economy / or democracy that ultimately prospers a nation – but trust in God.

 

Our society like in the days of the Judges has been quick to go after other gods.

 

Challenge #2. The Temptation to serve two masters.

 

The tension for the people of God in the Days of the Judges was to live by God’s principles while surrounded by others god worshippers.

The Baal worshippers sought to control their gods to meet their needs.

The true worshippers of the true God know they cannot manipulate God but only worship him in responsive obedience.

 

In the Days of the Judges the problem was that many Israelites tried to have the best of both world. They wanted Yahweh in one area of their lives and Baal to met the naturalistic areas.

Yahweh could take care of military crises while Baal could look after the agriculture!!

 

We can shake our heads and say “How foolish!” BUT how easy it is to make God safe by relegating him to just the areas that we are comfortable with.

How much of our Christianity can more correctly be called Christianised Hedonism – i.e. What makes us feel good is what God wills. In other words we measure God’s will by the amount of benefit it brings us.

G. Leonard, “To put is crudely, it is an attitude which regards God in terms of his usefulness rather than as an object of adoration and love.”

 

Challenge #3. The Problem of Evil.

 

We must not think that the Days of the Judges were totally devoid of any faith in God – that is not true. There were many faithful worshippers of God. BUT the problem of evil abounded.

Evil was in abundance – pillage and rape / murder and war / immorality and social degradation etc…

Why did God allow this? What about God’s covenant blessing with Israel?

 

Judges 21:25 25 In those days there was no king in Israel: everyone did that which was right in his own eyes. (KJV)

 

Everyone was a law unto himself – no one ruled – not even God!!

One of the signs that a society is moving away from God is lawlessness – Let me pose a question // Why do we need so much new legislation about so many areas of life that in other times wasn’t needed. E.g. Business law when in the past a man’s word was his bond!!

 

In the midst of this society that was in such turmoil we have the story of Ruth. A shining light in a Dark world!!

 

  1. 1.     In God’s eyes everyone is significant.

 

Ruth 1:1  In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a certain man from Bethlehem in Judah, …..

 

In the midst of all the nation God is interest in one man and his family. It reminds us that even our small ordinariness is not insignificant or unimportant to God – we all fall under his providential care!

 

  1. 2.     The circumstances of life.

 

This certain man lived in Bethlehem – and there was a famine. There is a certain irony because Bethlehem means ‘house of bread’ – because it was a particularly fertile area.. But there was very little bread.

Was the famine a natural disaster or was it due to the scorched earth policy of the enemy, the neighbouring Midianites. We don’t know! Given the circumstances the man decides to move his wife and family to Moab. Now it was a curious place for a worshipper of the God of Israel to go.

The Moabites were descendants of Lot, Abraham’s nephew, – they had not been particularly friendly to the Israelites and the Israelites were forbidden to have anything to do with them because they worshipped a god called Chemosh to whom human child sacrifices were made.

 

Elimelech, who is this certain man, possibly saw the famine as a mark of God’s displeasure and decides he is better off somewhere else / anywhere else!

Given what happens with all three men in the family dying the move did not achieve what Elimelech hoped for – to escape death from famine. He escaped the famine but not the death.

 

Was it a lack of faith on his part?

 

As we will see from the story – in spite of his apparent foolishness and lack of faith, God graciously and providentially provides for his widow and her daughter-in-law.

God’s grace is never restricted by our foolishness. God’s providence covers even our unwise mistakes.

 

Maybe you have done things in the past – wilfully gone your own way / simply made an error of judgement or unwise decision. Let me assure you God’s grace is sufficient to cover that. If we return to him he is forgiving and always offers a new beginning!

 

  1. 3.     The circumstances of life.

 

Ruth 1:2-5 2 The man’s name was Elimelech, his wife’s name Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.

3 Now Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband. (NIV)

Names in the Bible are very significant. It is not just a label but tells us something about the person. To know a person’s name is to know his character, to know him. Thus when Abraham becomes a new person he gets a new name. Jesus changes Simon’s name to Peter {rock}.

 

Elimelech means ‘My God is King!’ Did he live up to his name? Did his actions express the fact that ‘God is King’?

As Christians that too is our name – God is King – Jesus is Lord. This is not a promise of a trouble-free life. It is a promise of his providential care. It is an assurance that we do not need to be morbidly anxious about tomorrow.

Matthew 6:25-26 25 “.., do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

 

Believing in God’s providence does not exempt us from activity or at times having to make tough decisions – but it expresses faith in God who gives us help to cope with life’s uncertainties.

Did Elimelech live up to his name?   Do I live up to my name “Christian”?

 

Naomi – means pleasant, lovely, delightful. The tough times she had in Moab saddened and embittered her so when she eventually returns to Bethlehem without her husband and sons she says to the women of the town – Ruth 1:20

20 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. (NIV)

 

What did being a worshipper of God mean to her now?

How do the hard knocks in life affect your faith in God? Do they strengthen your faith and draw you closer to God or do you withdraw from God and become cold and bitter?

We all have times when we struggle and our faith weakens – but when we persist in our self-pity and bitterness we end up being miserable.

 

  1. 4.     The hard knocks of life.

 

Naomi immigrates to Moab with her husband and two sons. No doubt things went well to begin with.

Going wilfully our own way against God doesn’t always bring immediate disaster – sometimes it may even appear to improve life – but the long-term consequences are what we need to consider!

 

In due course her husband and two sons die. There is something very unnatural about death and yet it is the inevitable end for all of us. Somehow when it is premature it seems all the more difficult to bare.

 

To loose one member of your family is traumatic, but to loose three in such a short space of time and in a foreign country with no extended family and friends was devastating – Why should one person be called upon to suffer so much?

Surely it was unexpected! Surely undeserved!

 

Why does God allow these things to happen?

At times our pain seems unbearable – our circumstances seem so unjust – AND our questionings remain unanswered!

Faith, as we will learn from Naomi as we follow this story, sometimes means a willingness to leave such questions in the mystery of God – believing that in the long run he will prove himself trustworthy.

 

ILLUS.: The Weaver

 

  1. 5.     The Lord visits his people.

 

Ruth 1:6-7             6 When she heard in Moab that the LORD had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, Naomi and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. 7 With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah. (NIV)

 

It is apparent that Naomi has kept open the lines of communication with the people at home. It is also clear as we go on in the story that Naomi in spite of her many heartaches had kept her faith. She had been a witness to her Daughters-in-law to the point where Ruth had adopted her faith in the God of Israel.  In spite of the dark days she had been through she had not forgotten her God – and he had certainly not forgotten her.

 

One of the many things we learn from scripture is that it is good to remember and to recount the past blessings of God. This is esp. true during the difficult times. Meditating on God’s great acts of the past helps us through dark times.

Naomi’s heart had remained in Israel and her ears were alert to news from home.

 

The KJV says -.. that the LORD had visited his people in giving them bread…

The writer could have just said “The famine is over the rains have come” or “There has been an upturn in the economy” or “The threat of war is over”. Any of these could have been the reason for the Famine. BUT with the eye of faith the believer sees God behind these events.

 

The Bible sees all of life under the gracious hand of God.

When the Lord visits his people it is ether in judgement or blessing. Now God has visited his people in blessing and the famine is over – a new beginning, for the people of Bethlehem and for Naomi – and through Naomi the blessing spreads to Ruth.

 

The psalmist picks this up – Psalm 132:15  I will bless her with abundant provisions; her poor will I satisfy with food. (NIV)

 

God visiting and blessing it seen ultimately in the coming of Christ – Zechariah the priest prophesied – Luke 1:68 68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,

because he has come [visited] and has redeemed his people. (NIV)

 

Whatever the cause of Naomi’s problems – Moab was not the place to run to – BUT the Lord has visited his people and she can return.

 

The Lord’s invitation to all people is to return to him. We are all by nature separated from God – BUT in the person of Jesus God has visited us in order to redeem us.

But as Christians we can like Naomi and Elimelech go off into a foreign country spiritually speaking. But as in the case of Naomi there is always a way back and a new beginning.

Naomi was hurt and angry and bitter – and maybe you have feelings like that towards God. Those feelings won’t go away as long as you stay away. As the story goes on we see how Naomi is restored because she returned to the Lord.

If we hope to deal with all our mixed up feelings before we come we will never come.

 

Isaiah 44:22 22 I have swept away your offences like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.” (NIV)

Jeremiah 31:18 Restore me, and I will return, because you are the LORD my God.

Matthew 11:28  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (NIV)

Maybe like Naomi you have been through Dark days – maybe the days are dark now – Remember what the Lord has done – he has visited his people and he will in the end restore.

 

ILLUS.: Poem “The enshrouding darkness..” by Elizabeth

 

 

 

 

God is a God of New Beginnings

Ruth 1v1-7.

 

Background.

 

Challenge #1.

The lure of other deities.

 

Challenge #2.

The Temptation to serve two masters.

 

Challenge #3.

 The Problem of Evil.

1.       In God’s eyes everyone is significant. v.1

2.       The circumstances of life. v.1

3.       The characters in the story. v.2-4

4.       The hard knocks of life. v.3-5

5.       The Lord visits his people. v.6-7