One of the great themes that runs through the course of scripture is how a great God takes ordinary people and does extraordinary things with them to accomplish his miraculous purpose. Such a story is found in the book of Ruth in the Old Testament. On this mother's day weekend, it is a good time to focus on the incredible qualities of one of the mothers of the faithful. Her name is Ruth.
One of the great themes that runs through the course of scripture is how a great God takes ordinary people and does extraordinary things with them to accomplish his miraculous purpose. This enduring and dominant theme of scripture is played out again and again, friends, so that we today in the twenty-first century can come to realize that point, that we can learn to have a personal walk with God. No matter who we are, no matter where we've been, that each and every one of us comes into a relationship with a wonderful, with a loving God.
It's been said that certain people that we call heroes don't really know that they are heroes. Heroes don't know that they're heroes. They are simply men and women who do the right thing at the right time in the right way for the right reason. Now whether they be men or women and in all of their rightness what they do, there's a common denominator that brings what we call "heroes of the BIBLE" together. That simply is that they made themselves and kept themselves available for God to do a work in. And that's what we're going to talk about this afternoon.
Such a story is found in the book of Ruth in the Old Testament. This saga of tragedy, cause there's great tragedy in the Book of Ruth; this saga of tragedy turned to triumph is normally read in the synagogue during this time of the year. It is also often commented upon or spoken in a sermon during this time of year in the Church of God. It has a message that you and I as Christians need to learn from, reflect upon, and incorporate in our own lives so that our own walk with God can be like that of Boaz, Ruth and Naomi; so that's my intention today. On this mother's day weekend, I would like to focus on the incredible qualities of one of the mothers of the faithful. Her name is Ruth.
Now let's ask ourselves as we move into this message, why is the book of Ruth so essential for us to understand? Why is it that we would take time on this Sabbath afternoon to read this story? Why should it relate to you as an individual? I think we'll come to find that its simple lessons are played out by simple people that produce a profound cure. Perhaps for the many of us that might find ourselves in what for lack of better words we might call a "wilderness experience."
We're drifting. Life has not worked out like we thought it would work out. Life didn't work out the way the Betty Crocker recipe book of life said that it would; whether we come from Kansas or Ohio or Missouri or we were at Ambassador College at one time. Or we heard great, lofty platitudes at a spokesman's club, or a graduate club, or a minister said, "If you do this you'll get that," whatever your background; let's say for the moment that perhaps we're going through a "wilderness experience." The book of Ruth provides you and me an internal compass, a guide. This compass will direct us toward integrity and compassion.
The lessons from the book of Ruth will demonstrate to you and me the power of effective closure of whatever has occurred in our past. That's something that troubles a lot of us, that we have not closed the door on the past. Each and every one of us has a story. Each and every one of us has a past. Each and every one of us has something that we're still dealing with that maybe we feel is unfair; that God was asleep; or someone else was asleep. Well, why did it happen this way? Ruth provides that answer. Ruth also provides the answer of being able to step into the future in confidence, in faith and having an abiding an abounding and growing faith in God's presence in our lives. It's interesting why it is read during these days. It's because it captures the entire flow of the festival period that we're in.
The spring festivals - we have the story of putting off the old woman of Moab and then walking new in faith in a new land and coming upon a Savior that we did not know about, that we did not understand, but is rock solid there for us. So, all of Ruth pictures these festival days that you and I are going through. So, today, let's allow the book of Ruth to shape and mold our personal walk with God.
The book of Ruth can best be understood, as we turn over to Ruth, by looking at the last verse of the preceding book. Right in front of it, because the last verse of that book is actually the welcome mat, if we want to put it that way, to the book of Ruth. The last verse of the book of Judges describes why the book of Ruth is so very valuable to each and every one of us.
Judges 21:25 Judges 21:25In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
American King James Version×- "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did that which (what) was right in their (his) own eyes." Now Samuel had most likely concluded the writing the book of Judges. He's probably, and I say probably, the one that scribed the book of Ruth as it came down to him and it's interesting that Judges concludes with that.
And now through the book of Ruth, Samuel will fill in the rest of the story of very real people, with very real problems, with a very real God who stand out in discouraging, antagonistic times. Let's put it this way. About 1100, 1115 B.C., if we wanted to use common parlance, it was mighty tough being a Christian in a "so called" religious society at the time of the Judges. But it was occurring and it was happening; not easily, but it happened in the lives of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz.
Let's capture the setting for a moment as we walk into this book. The setting is basically pastoral Bethlehem. It's during the spring harvest season because it mentions the harvest of the barley fields. It's the time of, in other words, firstfruits. You might say, in listening to this sermon, the season of right now. We are in that time. It is in this period. The book of Ruth plays much like the book of Philemon. It's basically a book starring three main characters. The main characters are Ruth, their Naomi and their Boaz, the story of three individuals. What is interesting in this whole story, that I think will be poignant to each and every one of us, is that you and I, if we were the casting directors for God's kingdom may not have chosen any one of these three individuals to bring about the point that I'm going to bring up at the end of this message.
Number one, we have a woman that was basically marginalized through the death of her husband and having been away; here is a widow; here is a woman in a patriarchal society. We might not have chosen her to be a part of our story. We have another woman who is younger; who is a gentile. How does she get into the story? She is a foreigner and then lastly, most interestingly, we have a man who happens to be the son of a prostitute. What a pedigree! What a story!
It's the story of Boaz. The story of a man whose mother was none other than Rahab and now we have the book of Ruth. The good news of the book of Ruth is that God, I ask that you hear me on this, the power of this book is that God will use anyone who is open to Him and open to His purposes. This is the power of the book of Ruth. So we begin in chapter one.
Ruth 1:1 Ruth 1:1Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.
American King James Version×- "Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah went to dwell (sojourn) in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons." And so people go searching for food, and we have to mention the famine. Famine is no stranger in the BIBLE. God often uses famine as a tool to work with His people. People like Abraham; people like Jacob who became on the move because of the need for food, because of famine. And I think it reminds us just as we begin the book of Ruth, that God will often use adversity to test his servants and move them into new environments, move them into new situations; not to fail but to grow and move them into the lives of new people if we will be honest and foreseeant of what God is trying to do.
And so we have that story. Naomi and her family, they all moved to Boaz and they lived there for ten years. Well, a lot can happen in ten years. A lot can happen in ten minutes, have you ever noticed that? Lives can change and over the course of ten years her husband dies, her two sons die, so it's just this woman of Bethlehem, Naomi and her two foreign born daughters-in-law and what are they to do? And we pick up the story down here in Verse 6 that -
Verse 6 - "...the Lord had visited His people by giving them bread." At that time Judah was abundant. Notice Verse 7 -
Verse 7 - "Therefore (speaking of Naomi) she went out from the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah." Now you may not understand this, perhaps, in a casual reading. But let's understanding the overall reading of what perhaps God would have us gain this day in verse 7. When you see the phraseology "therefore," that should make us want to pause and understand the cause of what God is discussing here.
" Therefore she went out from the place where she was ..." This is the great call of God. "...she went," this has very much the same sense of timing and rhythm of what Abraham did nearly five hundred years before this when the call of God came to him and it says, "he went." It says that he departed and in that sense he took the role of a pilgrim and began to sojourn and began to move. This cannot be lost in the story of Ruth. She's about, Ruth and Naomi are about to embark on the trail of faith. They're going to pull up stake and they're going to have to go pitch tents somewhere else and with God's help they're going to have to plant hope and we're going to find all of that occur. And it says she went with her two daughters-in -law,
Verse 8 - "And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, 'Go, return each to her mother's house. The Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me.
Verse 9 - " 'The Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.' So she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept." Now you would have thought, you know, hug, hug, hug, connect, connect, connect. We've all had these farewells at the airports or when we've left home, or this or that and a little hug and then we go, but this is not the story of Ruth. Hugging didn't stop the connection.
Verse 10 - "And they said to her, ('Oh, no, wait a minute') 'Surely we will return with you to your people.' So, so far we've had one call out there, "Go home."
Number two - Verse 11 - "But Naomi said, 'Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Are there still sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?' " So she's being somewhat facetious.
Verse 12 - " 'Turn back, my daughters, go--for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, if I should have a husband tonight and should also bear sons.' " Are you going to wait around for these little lads to grow up so they can be your husbands?
Verse 13 - " 'Would you wait for them till they were grown? Would you restrain yourselves from having husbands? No, my daughters; for it grieves me very much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me!' " Now let's understand she'd already told the girls one time to go home. "Go, return." They did not go. She comes back again. She says, "No, go home." It tells you somewhat of the wonderful example that Naomi as a woman of faith must have set that her daughter-in-laws who want to cling to her. You know, Naomi literally means "pleasant one, pleasant one." She must have been a very pleasant person.
I would suggest that her good example was probably much more powerful than her good arguments. These daughters, Orpah (not Ophra, if you'll look, Orpah) and Ruth really did love their mother-in-law; but then we come to a key factor here. And it's, before I come to the key factor, it's very interesting in verse 13 that at this moment, and we're going to come back to it again, you find Naomi in deep grief. She's lost her husband. She's lost her sons. That's a lot, all in a very short length of time. She's grieving. She doesn't have all of the answers right now. She knows there's a God, but she doesn't really quite understand what He's up to. That's all right. We're only in the first chapter and sometimes in the grieving process we've got to recognize that there are chapters, and we will come to the end. Now notice what happens here:
Verse 14 - "Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her." Ruth clung to her.
Verse 15 - "And she said, "Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law." Now, what we begin to understand is something very fascinating about Ruth who is going to be in the line of David and who is also going to be in the line of Jesus Christ, and that's why Ruth is basically in the BIBLE.
There are some incredible qualities that are happening, and you know, it's not always when these great things happen in life. It's not like a movie where you have the music going off behind you and the clouds open, and it's not always going to be the voice coming down from the clouds saying, "This is my daughter, Ruth in whom I am well pleased. Thank you for hugging Naomi, your mother-in-law. Thank you for going to Judah. Amen, so be it."
Have any of you had that experience recently, or no? No, just checking. Okay, you're with me. When something wonderful had happened here. One of the great verses of the BIBLE, right here. Notice what it says, "... but Ruth clung to her." Clung.
Let me ask you a question for your consideration. Was Orpah a bad individual? Was Orpah, had she done something wrong by going back to Moab? Had she done something wrong by the third time her mother-in-law said to go home, to go home? Did she do something wrong by hugging and kissing her mother-in-law and then going home? No, it's not that Orpah did something wrong, it's that Ruth did something better and there's a choice.
And it's the same choice that is made apparent in the New Testament when the Apostle Paul, at the end of I Corinthians 12 says, "with everything that's happening here, and all the abilities that you have, now I want to 'show you a more excellent way.' " I want to show you the way of love.
There is no return here for Ruth. Here she was, holding on to an old widow and at best she rode somewhere between Moab and Bethlehem and this is when God began looking at this woman. It says, there's something special about this lady. She's making herself available. I'm going to go to work. Ruth said, the very famous song of Ruth -
Verse 16 - "... 'Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God.
Verse 17 - " 'Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried." There is more than symbolism; there is reality in this. Even with her young husband dead and the chance to go home, Ruth is abandoning her past. She is fully clinging to this new family of Naomi and saying, "I will be buried with your family. I'm giving up on Moab. I'm giving up on my own father (who the scriptures indicate were still alive.) I'm giving up on the old world, the old ways. Life hasn't been fair, but I'm going to step out with you. I'm going to step out on faith."
In fact, the commentaries say that, in this poem, this song, she does not use the term Elohim, but she uses the other term of Yahweh, of a personal God, not the great God, not the Elohim, not the term that foreigners used, but the term of Yahweh, and personalized it, that she was going to walk a new way of life.
Verse 17 - "...The Lord do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me.
Verse 18 - "When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her." It doesn't mean that she was mad at her; it's that she understood that this woman had resolve.
Verse 19 - "Now the two of them went until they came to Bethlehem. And it happened, when they had come to Bethlehem, that all the city was excited because of them; and the women said (to everyone), 'Is this Naomi?' " Here they were in Bethlehem and do you know what's very interesting about Bethlehem? Do you know what Bethlehem means? Bethlehem literally means "the house of bread." And here we're going to be dealing with the barley season.
And who else comes from Bethlehem? And what is one of His names? The one that would later on call Himself, "I Am the bread of life" came from the city of, the house of bread. You see how God is in all of this and all around it? It's really exciting when you think about it.
So they come into Bethlehem, and here's Naomi -
Verse 20 - "...Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me." She didn't want to be called "Pleasant" anymore. She was in mourning. Life had been turned upside down. She was very honest with her feelings. She was very honest with her daughter-in-law. She was very honest with the one that was also coming into the way and the belief. And may I say something. When you deal with the honesty of Naomi - perhaps she is telling us that we need to be more honest with one another and not only share our joys and our triumphal moments, and our big homerun moments of life; but at times when we share our unedited, unabridged thoughts and commentaries of where we are at that moment in life with other people. Those people can bring us back. We can begin to return to God.
You see, when I understand the story of Naomi and Ruth; Naomi was a lighthouse of strength for Ruth to come over the troubled waters of Moab. So there's a time when you yourself are a lighthouse for others and we're going to find that Ruth, as a new believer of God becomes a lighthouse for Naomi to bring her back out of the bitterness, out of the sorrow. Just like the footwashing service that we just went through at Passover, there's a time to wash feet, and there's also a time to have your feet washed, and that's what we're finding in this book.
Verse 22 - "So ...Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. Now they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest." Very interesting, if you'll notice verse 22, it says, "Ruth the Moabitess...." This term is used five different times in the book of Ruth. Also, she's called the damsel of Moab and other terms of Moab. This is not a mistake of the pen or a mistake of the spirit, but the emphasis that God wants us to gain out of the story is not where Ruth has been, but where Ruth is going. Yes, she has been in Moab. Yes, she was outside the camp of Israel. Yes, she was a foreigner, but God alone makes the choice. God alone makes the move as to who He will have in His family.
Ruth 2:1 Ruth 2:1And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband's, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz.
American King James Version× - "There was a relative of Naomi's husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech. His name was Boaz." And we're going to find that Boaz is a type of the kinsman redeemer. Not just a kinsman redeemer, but The kinsman redeemer. Boaz was not only wealthy in land and position; weÕre going to find that he is also wealthy and rich in integrity and compassion.
Verse 2 - "So Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, 'Please let me go to the field, and glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I may find favor.' And she said to her, 'Go, my daughter.'
Verse 3 - "Then she left, and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers. And she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.
Verse 4 - "Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said to the reapers, 'The Lord be with you!' And they answered him, 'The Lord bless you!' " May I share a thought with you for a moment friends? This happens to be one of my favorite "Kodak snapshots" of the BIBLE. Boaz, coming into the field and just his positivity and just his encouragement and probably just the smile that was on his face that is not mentioned here. That the men are out there working for him, and he doesn't say, "Oh boy, you know let's get it up guys; come on, more, more, more. Come on, women; get more, more, more. You're lagging behind." He comes out and says, "The Lord be with you!" Life is good. Let's do it together. Notice the response of the workers, "And the Lord be with you!" It's interesting.
Ever been around a group of people, they start talking negatively? And which way does the conversation go? Does it go north or south? OOOOOOOH, it goes down. Ooooh you know, you've never thought about this person much, but now that you mention it... Didn't want to bring it up, but do you have awhile? You know, it's like when somebody starts yawning; not any of you right now, then everybody starts yawning. Or somebody starts going like this, (scratching), then everybody's got lice, and everybody starts doing this.
Let's remember this in our own field that God is developing here in Los Angeles. Positivity begets positivity. Negativity begets negativity. Notice Boaz and think of his traits. Think of the traits of Ruth, physically and spiritually - spiritual genes and physical genes coming down through the line of David into Jesus Christ. Can you understand that God has a great and a wonderful purpose?
Verse 5 - "Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, 'Whose young woman is this?'
Verse 6 - "So the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered and said, 'It is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab.
Verse 7 - "And she said, 'Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.' So she came and has continued from morning until now, though she rested a little in the house.
Verse 8 - "Then Boaz said to Ruth, 'You will listen, my daughter, will you not? Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women.
Verse 9 - " 'Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Have I not commanded the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.'
Verse 10 - "So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said (to him,) 'Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?'
Verse 11 - "Boaz answered and said to her, 'It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before.' " It's a wonderful story here, friends. Let's understand a few of the circumstances. Let's understand that this is a time when every man was doing that which was right in his own eyes. Not everybody was upholding the laws of God. Not everybody was setting aside a portion of their field.
Remember how God said in the Old Testament that you were to save a certain portion of the field; the corners of the land, the circles of the land so that if there were those that were without that they could come and that they could glean? You see, Boaz was a man, not only of faith, but a man that kept the law of God. And the law of God and its keeping was a magnet for Ruth to be able to participate and to come into contact with them.
Question, wonder if Boaz had not been a man of faith and also kept the laws of God of the law of saving a part of the land for those that were unfortunate. That way, they could come in and glean. Would we have ever heard of Boaz?
On the other hand, would we have ever heard of Ruth? If Ruth had simply said, "Can you believe the cards that life has dealt me? I'm just going to kind of hang out here with Naomi. I'm just going to kind of stay right here. I'm entitled to something." Well, you see by the hard work of Ruth was not entitlement, but her enablement to get out, to get moving, to get into action and do something.
And then you begin to see this connection of people coming together. And not only that, but more than this, you see Boaz, no Boaz doesn't say, "Well, ...hey, leave a few for the next people, please. Getting a little selfish out there." He didn't say, "Well you've gleaned enough off of our land, now would you please move on. We've done our portion." No, you see, he believed very much... Let's go to Deuteronomy. I've got to show you one verse out of Deuteronomy here. Deuteronomy 15:7 Deuteronomy 15:7If there be among you a poor man of one of your brothers within any of your gates in your land which the LORD your God gives you, you shall not harden your heart, nor shut your hand from your poor brother:
American King James Version×. Would you join me there for a second?
Deuteronomy 15:7 Deuteronomy 15:7If there be among you a poor man of one of your brothers within any of your gates in your land which the LORD your God gives you, you shall not harden your heart, nor shut your hand from your poor brother:
American King James Version×- "If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother,
Verse 8 - "but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs." A wide hand comes from a wide heart. A wide heart comes from a heart that is full of integrity. A wide hand and a wide heart comes from the reality that it is not our job to choose God's family. It is our job to accept the family that comes into our barley fields, in Sunland, in Pasadena, in Arcadia, in Monterey Park, and in Los Angeles and to recognize that God can make great connections and begin to do great miracles even in funny little places like barley fields because he takes ordinary people and does extraordinary things with them if we're available, like Ruth, like Boaz, and like you. Notice what He says here then -
Ruth 2:12 Ruth 2:12The LORD recompense your work, and a full reward be given you of the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings you are come to trust.
American King James Version× - "The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge." There is no greater blessing that Boaz could give to this new believer, this woman who had given up the gods of Moab and was coming into a relationship with Yahweh.
It was not the blessing that came from him in the barley field. He felt that as she was moving from an old world into a new world he had to give her the best hope and the best encouragement that could be wrought under whose wings you have come for refuge.
Verse 13 - "Then she said, 'Let me find favor in your sight, my lord; for you have comforted me, and have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants.'
Verse 14 - "Then Boaz said to her at mealtime, 'Come here, and eat of the bread, and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar.' So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed parched grain to her; and she ate and was satisfied, and kept some back.
Verse 15 - "And when she rose up to glean," kind of interesting. Even after she's moved out of Moab; she's turned her back on her old world; she's come into a relationship with a man who's a possible kinsman redeemer, savior with a small "s." She's gotten a blessing, she's gotten a promise, she has repented. She's moving in faith. Nonetheless you gotta go back, and you gotta go to work, just like all of us. Even though we've come into a relationship with God, and we have the great kinsman redeemer, the great Boaz working for us, nonetheless, we've got to go back into our fields, back to school, back to the office, back to our marriages, back to our relationships, back to the barley fields God has given us to glean, and go to work. And that's what Ruth does. "...Boaz commanded his young men, saying, "Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her.
Verse 16 - "Also let grain from the bundles fall purposely for her; leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her."
Verse 17 - "So she gleaned in the field until evening, and beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah...." You know, I look at this and you look at Boaz being the provider, that God had blessed Ruth and Naomi well.
And when I read this verse, I cannot help but think so often about our own lives and the barley fields that you and I go down. How often we think that we've picked up - "Oh, did you...." You know, you go home to your wife and say, "Do you know what happened today? You know, just out of nowhere this came up, or I don't know how this worked out, but this came out." Is that just coincidence? Does that just happen? Or do we have that greater Boaz working for us, looking out ahead, looking over the hill, looking over the event and Christ, the greater Boaz dropping things along the way. Thinking out ahead of us, putting them down to where we, yeah, we have to be in the field; we have to be almost, in a sense, work as if we're on our own, but as we're doing our part as we're in the field of this world, as we are a person of integrity, as we are a person of honor, God's gonna make things happen for us.
A question, friends. Do you look for those droppings along the way? Do you recognize them? How our God and His Christ have gone out before us, been ahead on the path, been down the road and are doing things that we could never simply do for ourselves. And we give him praise and give him glory and give him honor, and be gladdened that we've come into his presence.
Verse 19 - "...(Naomi,) 'Where have you gleaned today? And where did you work? Blessed be the one who took notice of you.' So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked, and said, 'The man's name with whom I worked today is Boaz.'
Verse 20 - "Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, 'Blessed be he of the Lord, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!' And Naomi said to her, 'This man is a relative (relation) of ours, one of our close relatives.'
Verse 21 - "Ruth the Moabitess said, "He also said to me, 'You shall stay close by me (my young men)..." and she goes on to repeat the story.
Verse 22 - "And Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, 'It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, and that people do not meet you in any other field.'
Verse 23 - "So she stayed close by the young women of Boaz, to glean until the end of barley harvest and wheat harvest; and she dwelt with her mother-in-law." Let's remember the barley harvest is during the time of Pentecost; it is the time of the firstfruits and what we're noticing in the book of Ruth are the ingredients not of just simply barley, or of Ruth or of Boaz, but beyond that, the ingredients of a firstfruit of God. People that are not only wide handed, but wide hearted, people of integrity, people with compassion, people whose reputation goes out before them.
You know, amazing point here, Boaz had never met Ruth until she came into that field. Are you with me? But I suggest that he had met her; he had met her reputation. Young people that are here this afternoon, glad to have you. See my row of teenagers over there? "Hi, now they're looking up. Good, you're awake." Never underestimate the power of a good reputation. Never underestimate the power of a good name. Never underestimate an act that seemingly is done in darkness or in the middle of a barley field that will yes, yet go out before you and open doors, because God opens them; but you had to be in the field. You had to have the faith to move out of Moab; you had to have the faith to step out on God into the future, and you have to have the faith that He'll open the doors; the beauty of a good reputation.
Ruth 3:1 Ruth 3:1Then Naomi her mother in law said to her, My daughter, shall I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you?
American King James Version×- "Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, "My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you?
Verse 2 - "Now Boaz, whose young women you were with, is he not our relative? In fact, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor.
Verse 3 - "Therefore wash yourself and anoint yourself, put on your best garment and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.
Verse 4 - "Then it shall be, when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies; and you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lie down; and he will tell you what you to do (should do.)" And you're saying, "Whoa, wait a minute! My mother-in-law's telling me how to date?" What's going on here, friends?
Verse 5 - "And she said to her," notice what Ruth says, 'All that you say to me I will do.' A question, is there any wonder why Ruth is in the BIBLE? Here is a, you know, Ruth literally means friend, and this friend is in the BIBLE, and she says, "Yes, ma'am." Very interesting that a descendant of hers eleven hundred years later would say to His, in that sense, parent, to His heavenly father, I'm not here to do my own thing, whatever you ask me to do, I will do." The spiritual genes and the family genes run strong.
Verse 6 - "So she went down to the threshing floor and did according to all that her mother-in-law instructed her.
Verse 7 - "And after Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was cheerful, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came softly, uncovered his feet, and lay down.
Verse 8 - "Now it happened at midnight that the man was startled," Yeah! Whoa, ha, wow, what's going on here? You know, I thought, what's happening here? You know, I look over and here's this young lady. "...and turned himself; and there, a woman was lying at his feet.
Verse 9 - "And he said..." because, let's remember, you know, you didn't turn on a light back then, you didn't have your little night lamp. You know, you didn't have your little night light in the bale of barley. "Scuse me, gotta turn on the, it's dark. Who's out there, you know? Do I know you, at my feet? Who's out there?" And she said, "...I am Ruth, your maidservant. Take your maidservant under your wing, for you are a close relative."
Verse 10 - "Then he said," Now let me come back. Kids, over here, the teenagers. Hello, let's understand this is not some saucy, sexy, wild night on the barley hay in Bethlehem. This is a, sorry, this is a part of, a levirate marriage. That when a woman's husband died, God gave a law, back in The Law that the next of kin would honor their family member and/or their brother by taking that wife. Bringing them into their own family and that any seed that they had, any child would come up without bearing his name, but would bear the name of the deceased father, so that that name never went out of the land of Israel. And so, what is happening here is that in that culture and that time dating was a little bit different back then.
What is happening is Ruth submissively is at the feet of Boaz. She willingly and voluntarily submits herself into that position. And then what happens is, Boaz stretches his garment or his cloak over her. There's a lot of symbolism that is occurring, in that sense comes under his wing and under his protection. Remember what Boaz told Ruth, saying, "May you come to trust under the wing of God." Now when he said that, that might have just been a phrase back then that sounded really good, and he meant it, but little, perhaps, little did he perhaps realize that he would become that wing.
How often do we pray for individuals, friends? We say, "We know God's got something in store for you. God's got something great for you. I know God's going to make a breakthrough for you. I know God's going to cover you with His wing," but when God selects you to be the wing, you and me to be the wing for the person that we're talking to, do we kind of back, "Oh, wait a minute, do I don't know if I'm ready for this or not. You know, I was into the God talk thing and the blessing, but I didn't realize it was me that God was talking about."
I mean, God uses people to do His will. He doesn't always do the "angel thing." ....... He uses people to serve people. He uses people to help people. He uses people to manifest His will with other people. We are all His instruments, and this is what is occurring here.
Verse 11 - "And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you request, for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman." So right there it shows you that nothing was happening in the middle of the night in the barley fields of Bethlehem. This was a virtuous woman.
Verse 12 - "Now it is true that I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I.
Verse 13 - "Stay this night, and in the morning it shall be that if he will perform the duty of a close relative for you--good; let him do it. But if he does not want to perform the duty for you, then I will perform the duty for you, as the Lord lives! Lie down until morning."
Now, let's think this through for a moment. This just displays the kind of man Boaz is. He goes, "Oh, man, now that you bring it up, ... there's somebody closer to you than I am. So come over here and have a hug and a kiss before the next statement." This was not Boaz. Boaz is a man of integrity. He is observant of the law. He's not going to move beyond the threshold. He says I want to perform this duty and I am inclined to do it, but if the other relative doesn't, it's all right, and it's good. And he doesn't go, "Oh, bad, here I'm an old man and here is this young thing out there," he's not into that. He says, "As the Lord lives!" This is not about me, it's not about her, it's about what God wants to do. Because we find right here that basically, you know, when he said this, notice what it says that,
Verse 10 - "...you did not go after young men, whether poor or rich." Boaz was probably sixty, sixty-five or seventy. Ruth was probably a much younger lady and so it shows that they were not looking on the outward person; they were looking to God and they were looking at the inner person. What was inside these people? Two things - integrity, compassion. We pick up the story, notice verse 18. She goes back and tells her mother-in-law everything, a little female connecting here. "Can you believe, this? It's all working out all right." Notice:
Verse 18 - "Then she said, (Naomi speaking,) 'Sit still, my daughter, until you know how the matter will turn out; for the man will not rest until he has concluded the matter this day.' " Now, powerful lesson in this. It looks like everything's happening for Ruth, and what does her mother-in-law say? She says, "Sit still." "But haven't I done enough? I turn my back on Moab. I gave God my past."
And I think this is what sometimes happens to us as Christians. We get to a point where we feel satisfied with ourselves; that we have given God our past; we've given God our history. We have repented, and we've turned around, but God doesn't want simply our past, He wants our future. And He also wants to order that, and He also wants to be a part of that. And Naomi tells Ruth the hardest thing that is happening when things are beginning to happen between a man and a woman. "Sit still." Because she also knows the character of Boaz; he will not rest.
Just remember, Boaz is a type of Jesus Christ. Christ is God. Join me in Isaiah 62:1 Isaiah 62:1For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burns.
American King James Version×. We're just going to go a little bit longer. I'm not going to be here next week, so put on your seatbelts. So many characteristics that step out here.
Isaiah 62:1 Isaiah 62:1For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burns.
American King James Version×"For Zion's sake I will not hold My peace, And for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest,
Until her righteousness goes forth as brightness...." Boaz had godly qualities. Naomi new the godly qualities that were in Boaz, that this man who is a type of Christ would not rest until the job was done. Next day,
Ruth 4:1 Ruth 4:1Then went Boaz up to the gate, and sat him down there: and, behold, the kinsman of whom Boaz spoke came by; to whom he said, Ho, such a one! turn aside, sit down here. And he turned aside, and sat down.
American King James Version×- "Now Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there; and behold, the close relative of whom Boaz had spoken came by. So Boaz said, 'Come aside, friend, sit down here.' So he came (aside) and sat down.
Verse 2 - "And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, 'Sit down here.' So they sat down. Ten men made a quorum. He had to have witnesses and by the end of this story, the next time somebody tells you in church to come over and sit down by me. "Can I mention something to you?" You're going to think twice before you sit down. Just teasing. Ha, ha, if you know the story. "I'm about to inform you, that's kind of interesting. By the way," it says, "I thought to inform you, saying, Buy it back...." It talks about Naomi,
Verse 3 - "...has come back from the county of Moab" and has this property to deal with.
Verse 4 - " '...Buy it back in the presence of the inhabitants and the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you will not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know; for there is no one but you to redeem it, and I am next after you.' " And the man, the near kinsman says, "Oh, Okay, I'll redeem it. I will make it good. I will make it part of the levirate situation
Verse 5 - "Then Boaz said, 'On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also buy it from Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance.' " Oh, now that changes the equation.
Verse 6 - "And the close relative said, 'I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I ruin my own inheritance. You redeem my right of redemption for yourself, for I cannot redeem it.'
Verse 7 - "Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging, to confirm anything: one man took off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was a confirmation in Israel.
Verse 8 - "Therefore the close relative said to Boaz, 'Buy it for yourself.' So he took off his sandal.
Verse 9 - "And Boaz said to the elders and all the people, 'You are witnesses this day that I have bought all that was Elimelech's, and all that was Chilion's and Mahlon's, from the hand of Naomi.
Verse 10 - "Moreover, Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, I have acquired as my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brethren and from his position at the gate. You are witnesses this day."
I want to share a thought with you. We know the name of Ruth, we know the name of Naomi, and we know the name of Boaz. You do not know the name of this near kinsman. Oh, what an opportunity he missed. Oh, to be in the BIBLE, to be in the story of Ruth and not to have your name mentioned because he was short sighted.
It was well and good while it was to his advantage to acquire more property, but when Ruth was thrown into the deal, and Boaz knew it was coming, the bet was off. "No, I'm not going to do that. There is no gain here. There is no gain by marrying a foreigner, by marrying a gentile, by marrying one that has been outside of the camp. She brings nothing to the relationship. I will lose, and I will lose everything that I have." Boaz, on the other hand, accepts that lovingly because he's a man of compassion. He's a man that keeps the law. He's a man of integrity, and therein he becomes a type of Jesus Christ.
Christ did not want us, brethren, for what we have, for we have nothing. We were outside the land and we were in that sense dead. Christ comes along and says, "Father, I know they're nothing. I know they're not a part of our family. I know they've been outside the camp, but I'm willing to have my sacrifice spread over them, to redeem them and I'm not worried about losing everything." And we know that Jesus Christ lost everything. He gave up everything. He considered it loss. He did not worry about losing the store up in heaven to come down to the bride of Christ in that sense and prepare that bride by redeeming her and making her available to come to God's kingdom. Never had a second thought about it as it says, "for the joy." And as it says in Hebrews 2, "You are my brethren." And He had no shame in that.
Wonderful story, wonderful message, wonderful people, little people of and by themselves that serve a great purpose of what was to come along. Can you imagine, and are you ready that when the opportunity comes, that you will be ready, that you will be prepared. That you will not think that it's a coincidence, and understand that at times God is testing you, wanting to know that you will look beyond the moment, look beyond the personal loss that may be yours for the moment, for the greater good, and for the glory of God's kingdom.
Well, they got together. Naomi got happy. One thing I want to share with you right now, some of you that are going through a wilderness experience, some of you that have holes in your life right now, because of loss, some of you that may be in chapter one, or chapter two, or chapter three. You know, when you lose someone, like a husband or children you can never fill that. You can never replace that. No, no, no you can't. I haven't lost children, but God said that he will make a way. He'll provide us a compass if we're people of integrity, if we're people of vision, if we come back through the roughs and the toughs and the rocks of life and come to understand that God does love us.
We know at the end of the book that Naomi had a little baby on her lap. She served as a nurse to a little guy called Obed, whose son was Jesse, whose son was David, whose great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great son was none other than Jesus Christ.
Ruth and Naomi were pilgrims. Pilgrims need to know their map, need to know where they're going and pilgrims like Ruth need to get off the bench and go to work in the barley fields ahead of us. I don't know what your barley field looks like. You may not know what my barley field looks like. If we are lonely, if we are down, if we are brokenhearted, may I suggest to you that you ask God's Spirit to guide you to someone that is even further and more lonely, down, and brokenhearted, and you fill that life like Ruth filled up the life of Naomi once again.
What did we learn from the book of Ruth? God looks so far out there. We not only having a loving God, but we have a God that works the plan. He took two individuals that you and I would have never, ever have made a cast call for. Old widow, young foreign woman in the sin of a prostitute, and He says, "You're mine. I claim you; I'm not going to forget about you, and I don't want you to forget about Me. I want to use you, and you think eleven hundred years down the line of all the qualities of Jesus Christ: integrity, compassion, sticktuitiveness, hard work, honor."
I wonder where He got that from? Yeah, indeed, His heavenly Father. Because He was the Son of God. But genes and learning are passed down from generation to generation. Never underestimate your God, and never underestimate what God wants to do through you as you make yourself available to Him and as you keep yourself available to Him. May all of our ladies out there on this Mother's Day weekend, may you all be like Ruth.