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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
 
Title:God's extravagant goodness is shown in Boaz
Text:Ruth 2:4-16 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Covenant faithfulness
 
Preached:2013
Added:2013-12-27
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

NOTE:  all songs from the 2010 Book of Praise

Hymn 66

Psalm 32:1,2

Psalm 118:1,2

Psalm 118:7,8

Psalm 117

Scripture reading:  Ruth 2:1-16

Text:  Ruth 2:4-16

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ,

We love it when someone goes the extra mile for us, don’t we?  The expression comes from Matthew 5:41 where our Lord Jesus says, “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”  Sometimes people will be generous and do that.  You ask your parents for $10 and, for some reason, they give you $20.  You tell your son or daughter to shovel the driveway, but they go the extra mile and shovel all the sidewalks too.  People sometimes go and do far more than what we asked or expected and that’s always something that makes us happy.  We love it when people go the extra mile.  It’s surprising and brightens up our day.  Stop right now and try to remember a time when someone did that for you.  I know I can remember a few instances and I’m sure you can too. 

When we think about those times, it would be good for us also to think about God and our relationship with him.  Let’s remember that God never owes us anything.  There’s nothing that compels God to give us anything good at all.  But God has done something that nobody else would:  in love God saved his enemies with the gift of his own Son.  Listen to what Scripture says in Romans 5:8, “…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Sinners are enemies of God.  Sinners have declared war on God, have rebelled against him, have committed treason against the King of creation.  But God gave his only Son for us.  In doing this, we see a powerful display of love, the kind of love that goes far beyond what we could reasonably expect.  It’s a love that goes way beyond the extra mile.  It’s an extravagant and surprising love.

In the Old Testament, we hear God making all these promises leading up to this.  When Christ came into this world as one of us, God showed his faithfulness to what he had promised.  In the Old Testament, God’s love, goodness, faithfulness, grace – his going the extra mile for those who don’t deserve it – all of that comes together in a single word.   That word is chesed [pronounced ‘kesed’]Chesed is a Hebrew word that’s often translated as “steadfast love.”  We find it in Psalm 118, for example.  When we sang that God’s firm and steadfast love endures, that’s referring to God’s chesed.   It’s a rich word that describes God’s surprising and extraordinary way of dealing with his people. 

Commentators have correctly pointed out that chesed features prominently in the book of Ruth.  The word is only explicitly mentioned three times, but the concept looms large.  One of the times that it’s used is by Naomi in chapter 2, verse 20.  She rightly recognizes that the steadfast love of Yahweh is at work in the events described in our text for this morning.  So I preach to you God’s Word with this theme:

God’s extravagant goodness (chesed) is shown in Boaz

We’ll see how this goodness shines:

  1. In how Boaz deals with his workers
  2. In how Boaz deals with Ruth

Last time we were introduced already to the figure of Boaz.  We were told that he was a worthy man, a man of wealth and standing in Bethlehem.  He was related to Naomi through her husband Elimelech.  We also took note of his parents.  According to Matthew 1, Boaz was a son of Rahab, the woman who had been a prostitute in Jericho before the Israelites destroyed the city.  The LORD has been working in the life of his parents and in his life too.

Now in verse 4, we see that Boaz is hands-on with the management of his farm.  He’s not the absentee farm owner, but he gets right in there with the workers.  He comes out of the town of Bethlehem and goes out to the fields.  He greets his workers in a special way, invoking the name of Yahweh as he does so, “The LORD [Yahweh] be with you!”  Since we know that Boaz is a man of integrity, a worthy man, we can be confident that these are not empty words.  He’s not just saying this because this is the thing to say.  As Boaz runs his farm business, he wants God to be publically acknowledged as part of it.  Proverbs 3:6 says, “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”  Boaz does that.  He acknowledges God in his business.  He’s not afraid to be up front about his faith.  When he greets his employees, he does so by blessing them in the name of God.  God is not a footnote in the life of Boaz. 

And notice how his workers respond.  They call back and answer with their own blessing in God’s name, “Yahweh bless you!”  They could have said nothing.  If they didn’t like Boaz and the way he treated them, they could have just mumbled and grumbled.  However, they’re happy to be working for this worthy man.  Boaz is a kind and godly employer.  Boaz demonstrates that chesed that we were just talking about.  He is a model of abounding grace, goodness, love, and kindness, also when it comes to the people who work for him.

We see it further in our passage too.  If we skip ahead to verse 14, we read about Boaz sitting down to a meal.  There’s bread and wine or maybe wine vinegar.  Boaz wasn’t eating by himself, his employees were there with him enjoying this meal.  He shared this good food with his workers.  They don’t have to provide their own food; he takes care of it for them.  There was no obligation to do that according to God’s law.  We’re looking at a kind and generous employer here in the person of Boaz.  Boaz does this because he’s a believer and because God is at work in his heart and life, producing these fruits of goodness and kindness.

Boaz points us to God who is the same way with us.  Day by day, God blesses us with so many good things that we don’t deserve, so many things that he’s under no obligation to provide for us.  It’s always good to pause and think deeply about God’s undeserved blessings.  A good time to do that is when you eat.  When our Lord Jesus ate and drank during his ministry on earth, we see him giving thanks on several occasions.  It was his practice to give thanks to God for his daily bread.  The fact that the Son of God did it speaks volumes, doesn’t it?  Whenever we eat a meal, whether individually or as a family or with friends, we should take a moment and pray to our good and gracious God.  For you kids too, your parents teach you to pray before you eat.  Do you do that when your parents are not around too?  You should.  You should always give thanks to God for giving you what your body needs.  We ought to bless his Name for his extravagant goodness to us.  Give thanks to the one who created us, who created our food, who provided our food for us.  Brothers and sisters, the LORD has been so generous to us in so many ways and we should be conscientious and deliberate about acknowledging that.

Of course, the most extravagant and surprising goodness of our God is seen in the way that he’s provided us with food and drink to eternal life in Jesus Christ.  Boaz points us to his and our good and gracious God.  And nowhere do we see God’s chesed, his steadfast love, more clearly than with Christ.  Think of it this way, loved ones:  yes, Boaz was a kind and gentle man.  You could say he was a good man, one of the godliest men in the Bible.  Yet you can be sure that Boaz was also a sinner like us.  Boaz would have had his personal struggles of one sort or another.  He was in the Messianic line, descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  He was of the tribe of Judah, the tribe from which the scepter would not depart according to Genesis 49.  Yet Boaz, even with all his lavish goodness and kindness, he could not crush the head of the serpent.  He could not take our curse upon himself.  He could not pay for our sins.  Yet he is pointing ahead to his great-grandson, our Lord Jesus.  With his immaculate goodness and kindness, our Lord Jesus did save us.  With his sacrifice on the cross, he did take our curse on himself and crush the serpent’s head.  With his redemptive work, he has bought us and made us his own.

That means that Christ is our Lord and master and we are his servants.  He is like Boaz to us, kind and generous beyond what we could ever have hoped for.  He blesses us body and soul with everything we need for this life and the next.  As we work in his fields, our Lord Jesus graciously cares for us.  Having him as our master is a joy and delight!  This is why he says in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  Loved ones, come to Christ and you will be under a Lord and master who is abundant in chesed, steadfast love, extravagant goodness.  It is truly a joy and blessing to be one of his servants.

The second way we see God’s extravagant goodness is in how Boaz deals with Ruth.  When Boaz came to the farm that day, he asked the foreman about the young woman that caught his eye.   Boaz wanted to know about her, her name, what kind of woman she was, and so on.  The foreman answered.  He told Boaz about Ruth and her story.   He told him about how Ruth had come to the field and been working hard.  Boaz has heard enough about her to want to take action.  He goes up to her and begins speaking.  He tells her to stay in his field, stay close to his female workers.  He’s going to take care of her and he’s given special orders for the male workers to respect her and provide necessities like water.  And after he’s told her that he’s heard all about her and what she’s done for Naomi, he blesses her too with the Name of Yahweh.  I want you to see how Boaz is really going the extra mile with Ruth.  He really doesn’t have to do any of this beyond allowing her to reap in his fields.  That was all God’s law commanded.  But he goes way further.

And Ruth sees this.  She’s surprised at it.  That’s in verse 10.   After falling on her face and bowing to the ground, she says, “Why have I found favour in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?”  Ruth was amazed that somebody would be so incredibly kind and good to her.  She had so many things going against her.  First, she was a woman and being a woman in those days automatically meant that you were more vulnerable in some respects.  To make it more difficult, she was a widow, a true widow with no husband and no sons.  There was nobody to protect her.  Unscrupulous people would typically try to take advantage of someone in her position.  Then last of all, she was a foreigner from Moab.  Normally the people from Moab and the people from Israel hated each other.  They were enemies.  But at the farm of Boaz, none of that matters.  Boaz is extravagantly good and kind to Ruth, even though she is a widow woman from Moab.  He treats her honorably and shows that he truly is a worthy man, a godly man.                                                           

In verse 11, Boaz recites all the good that Ruth has done for her mother-in-law Naomi.  He sees in her a woman who is something special.  That’s why in verse 12, he asks Yahweh to repay, reward, and bless her.  He recognizes that she has come to take refuge under the wings of Yahweh, the God of Israel.  She’s left behind her false gods in Moab and committed herself to the true God.  Boaz commends her for that.  Unlike Naomi did in chapter 1, he doesn’t point his finger back at Moab and tell her to get back where she belongs.  Because she doesn’t belong there.  She belongs here in Bethlehem with God’s people.  That’s where the true God has called her to be.  In all this, Boaz is speaking powerful words of encouragement and blessing to Ruth.

Now because most of you know the way the story unfolds, you may be thinking:  well, yeah, of course he’s doing this, because he has a romantic interest in Ruth.  Everyone knows that the plot of this book involves a romantic relationship between Ruth and Boaz.  There may be something of that going on here already at the very first encounter between them.  However, if we look at the text carefully, there’s no explicit indication of any attraction of Boaz towards Ruth at this point.  In fact, look at verse 8 and look at the way that Boaz addresses Ruth.  He addresses her the same way that Naomi addresses her.  He calls her, “my daughter.”  That’s not a romantic way of speaking in the Old Testament.  As you know, there’s an entire book dedicated to love and romance in the Old Testament.  In the Song of Solomon, you don’t find the male figure addressing his love as his daughter.  This is the way that a father speaks to his female child, not the way a suitor addresses his love interest.  Therefore, at this point, the romantic spark doesn’t seem to be there yet between Ruth and Boaz.

That means Boaz is being Boaz.  This is him being authentically him.  Whatever he does here, he doesn’t have to do.  He didn’t have to walk over to Ruth and have a conversation with her.  He didn’t have to give her his protection, provide her with water, and bless her with the Name of Yahweh.  As I mentioned, all he was obliged to do by the law of God was to allow her in the field to glean.  That’s it.  He could have checked up on things and walked away from his field and gone back to Bethlehem.  But Boaz goes the extra mile for this poor widow from Moab.  And he did that because the LORD had been working in his life.  When Boaz said and did these good things, he was reflecting the God of Israel, our God, who is so good.  We see here a picture of the goodness, kindness, mercy, grace, and steadfast love of Yahweh – we see his chesed.

In the space of a chapter and a half, the picture in this book has gone from being deathly dark to bright and hopeful.  Things are looking good for everyone involved.  If you look at our text, there’s water to drink, there’s bread to eat (and wine vinegar to dip it in), and there’s roasted grain.  There are people joyfully blessing one another in the name of God, acknowledging him in everything – and reflecting him.  The whole picture is one of life and joy.  Brothers and sisters, we need to see here the beauty of life in the covenant of grace, functioning as it should.  Having returned to faith in God, the people were striving to walk in his ways.  Yes, they would have done so imperfectly.  They still needed regular forgiveness of their sins and God provided a way for that through Christ, as he was foreshadowed by the sacrifices of the Old Testament.  As they made use of the means of grace, and as they wanted to love God and live close to him, as they lived out of faith, there were blessings and there was joy.  As they lived in the covenant relationship with God, they experienced his loving kindness and they also reflected his loving kindness, his extravagant goodness, chesed.

For us today, brothers and sisters, we have been blessed with so much more.  We know Christ, the one to whom everything in the Old Testament pointed.  We know of all he did in his life, death, and resurrection.  We know today that we have a sympathetic High Priest at the right hand of God.  Someday he’s going to take us to himself.  Through Christ and the grace of God in him, we’ve all been included in the covenant of grace too, we’ve all been brought into a special relationship with the LORD where his extravagant goodness is promised.  When that relationship functions the way that it’s designed to, there are blessings and there is joy.  When we look to God in faith, trusting in the Saviour he’s given, hating our sins and fleeing from them, loving God and wanting to please him, then that relationship proves to be a delight. 

Loved ones, living in that covenant relationship with our God is not just about you receiving extravagant goodness, it’s not just about having someone else go the extra mile for you.  It changes us and the way we relate to other people.  It transforms us into people who reflect our God in the way we treat others.  Remember what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount about going the extra mile?  “And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”  As God’s covenant people, those redeemed by lavish grace, are we prepared to go out of our way to show that kind of love?  Surprise someone, brothers and sisters.  Think about what God did in and through Boaz.  Think about how God used Boaz and Ruth, think about how God used them to bring our Lord Jesus into this rebel world.  Think about how our gracious God has gone the extra mile for those who were his enemies – he went the extra mile to make them his children.  Listen to God’s Word in 1 John 4:11, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”  AMEN.                                  

Prayer:

Our good and gracious God,

We are thankful to you for your steadfast love that endures for evermore.  You are our God, our rock and refuge, you have been so exceptionally good and kind to us, making us your children, though by nature we are your enemies.  This surprises us, this delights us.  We love you because you first loved us in this amazing way.  We love you because we have a Saviour in Jesus Christ.  We love you because through him, we have good news of reconciliation and restoration to you.  Thank you for all your goodness in taking care of all our needs for body and soul, we who are so undeserving.  Father, we want to serve you and walk in your ways.  We want to live within the framework of your covenant, following your Word.  We want to reflect you in all we do.  So we earnestly pray for the help of your Holy Spirit.  Please send your Spirit with might and power so that our hearts are generous towards everyone around us.  Please make us more and more into your image, so that we would be as kind, gracious, and loving as you are.  We ask that you would help us to put to death our selfishness, our narcissism, our pride and everything that else that stands in the way of people seeing you in us.      




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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