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Author:Rev. David Stares
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Congregation:Reformed Church of Masterton
 New Zealand
 rcmasterton.co.nz
 
Title:The Kindness of a Worthy Man
Text:Ruth 2:1-23 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2021-03-23
Updated:2021-03-23
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. David Stares, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Rev. David Stares (transcription credit - Seth and Esther de Reus)

Ruth Chapter 2 – The Kindness of a Worthy Man

Last time we looked at the first chapter of Ruth, and we saw that it was a chapter that was a little bit mixed. On the one hand we have this girl Ruth, who demonstrates amazing, unexpected faith. She takes on her lips the words of the covenant: she says “your God will be my God, your people will be my people”.

And on the other hand, we have Elimelech, (and Mahlon and Killion), who have no interest being among the people of God, nor for worshipping him. And then we have Naomi, who has gone through this trial, who has ended up completely hope-less, who has become bitter, and in the end of the chapter she says “call me Mara, for God has dealt bitterly with me”. She says God has been working against me. And so, with no future, Naomi is content to while away her days in the land of Israel.  

But God is working.

It was God who returned food to the land of Israel. It was God who called Naomi back to Israel with word of renewed prosperity. In our text today, God is going to continue to restore Naomi. And he is going to do it through Ruth. Through a foreigner. He is going to pour out his lavish kindness on Naomi. He is going to give her hope, and kindle in her a spark of trust in the faithfulness of God.

Today we will see that because God is faithful to those who love him, we must take shelter under his wings. We will see this under the following three points

1) Ruth Takes Initiative (1-3)

2) Boaz Responds With Kindness (4-16)

3) Naomi Sees God’s Hand (17-23)

 

1) Ruth Takes Initiative (1-3)

Well, last time we were introduced to this woman named Ruth. And what is important to note is that she was not Israelite. If you have read the first chapter of Ruth, it is an obvious point, Ruth is a Moabite. In our chapter as well, verse 2 she is called Ruth the Moabitess, and verse 21 the same label. At multiple points in the story, it is pointed out that Ruth is from Moab.

Why was this important? Because Moabites were not ordinary Gentiles. You have your average common, or garden variety Gentiles, and way down below them were the Moabites. 

In God’s law there were special rules for the Moabites. We read about these in Deuteronomy 23:3-6,

“No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the LORD. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the LORD forever, because they did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you. You shall not seek their peace or their prosperity all your days forever.”

What this meant was no Moabite male was ever to be allowed in the temple of God. They were on the same level as the Egyptians and the Edomites. People who had done harm, or tried to do harm to the people of God. The Moabites were considered enemies of Israel, and they should not come into Israel expecting a friendly reception.

Although Ruth has converted, even though she has taken the covenantal formula on her lips, even though she has confessed faith in God, as far as her outward appearance goes, she is still a Moabite.

So the question is, when a Moabite comes into Israel, confessing faith in the one true God, and is visibly in need, how is she going to fare? Will she be accepted? Will she be cared for? Or will the fact that she is a Moabite too much to overcome?

This is the problem that is established in Ruth 2. Is her conversion enough for her to be accepted in Israel?

We read at the end of Chapter 1 that this is the end of the barley harvest. This is a good time to be poor in Israel. God had made provision for the poor, which especially came into play at harvest time, as we read in Lev 19:9-10 –

“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.”

During harvest, the men would typically cut the stalks, and the women would come through behind, picking up the grain and binding in sheaves. The Israelites were not supposed to cut right to the edge of their field, this was to be left for the poor. And as the women go through and gather the grain, God said to leave what was missed. This was how God cared for poor, the weak, the traveler, those who couldn’t care for themselves.

But remember: this was time of Judges. And what was the motto of the time of the Judges? “There was no king in Israel, and everyone did what was right in their own eyes.”

Despite God’s command intended to make provision for the poor, there was no king in Israel, so there was no one to enforce this law, and no guarantee that when the poor went to a field that the gleanings would have been left.

So this was why in verse 2 Ruth says “please let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after one in whom whose sight I may gain favor.” She knows she needs to find someone who will let her glean in his field. She needs to look for someone who is not going to harass, assault or harm her. And yet, even in this dangerous scenario, this Moabite woman takes the initiative.

And she has to take initiative. Naomi has zero initiative after what has taken place in Chapter 1. In Chapter 1, Naomi hears that while she is in the field that God has provided food in Israel. She is able bodied enough to work in the fields in Moab. She is not too ill or weak. And yet now, she doesn’t take the initiative to go out into the fields and glean, because she is in the depths, full of sorrow, and thinks God’s hand against her

And so it is up to this Moabite Ruth to provide for this Israelite. And she says to her “Go, my daughter” – which may sound sweet but notice that this is the shortest sentence Naomi speaks to Ruth.

She gives her no information about what she may be facing as she goes out into the fields to glean. She doesn’t say “you need to watch out, and I hope you will be alright.”  She doesn’t say “we have relations in Bethlehem, you should go to one of them.” She gives her nothing. She just says “do what you want to do.”

So, as an outsider, a foreigner, who is new to nation of Israel, Ruth has to take the initiative and goes out to glean in the fields.

2) Boaz Responds with Kindness

How does this turn out? Verse 3:

“So she departed and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers. And she happened to come to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.”

We have this funny phrase here in verse three “And she happened to come to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz.” We sort of speak like this ourselves, when we go to Countdown and we meet someone from church, and we go home and say “I happened to see so and so” and we speak this way when it is unexpected, and from our perspective it is unplanned or unexpected.

It is strange to see this in Bible, as if it happened completely by chance. But the reality is, while it was unexpected and unplanned by Ruth, and Naomi, this was not unexpected as far as God was concerned. What our text says is that while it was not a human plan or expectation that Ruth came to Boaz’ field, and if in fact they had taken the time to plan which field Ruth goes to, they probably would have gone to the field of the closer relative who pops up later in the story.

No, this is not something that happened by Naomi’s plan, this is something that happened by God’s plan.  This is, once again, something that God is doing, according to his providence. It was God who brought Ruth to Boaz’ field

This is how we expect God’s providence to work: as we walk down life’s pathways, things happen, and to us they may look like chance, but instead we know that as the Heidelburg Catechism says, “nothing happens by chance…but all things come by God’s fatherly hand”

Ruth is facing dire circumstances indeed. She is widowed, and destitute. And yet she trusts in the providence of God, as she goes out to glean as a Moabite in Israel. She has confidence for the future, Ruth has trust, that He would take care of her as she goes out to serve Naomi in this way, despite being born an enemy of Israel.

Brothers and sisters, we as believers in this same God, ought to have this same trust. That we in our lives undergo immense trials, and struggles, and sorrows. We find ourselves in the depths of despair at times. But we must also know that God is not surprised at our suffering. God is not surprised at our trials. God sends us our trials, for our good.

How can I know that God cares for me in the middle of my trials? How can I trust His providence? Well, listen to what Paul says in Romans 8,

“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

If God was willing to give up own son for you, who shed his own blood for you, laid down his life for you, who took your sins upon himself. If God is willing to do that for you, He will not abandon you.

Paul makes his argument from the lesser to the greater. If he would give you even His own Son, why would he withhold anything else? The other little things in life, in comparison. And so this includes the fact that God provides for us, whether we go through joys or sorrows, this is all in his providence.

This does not make pain go away in the moment, does not make the tears disappear. In fact, at times the fact that God is in control of everything makes us wrestle with him even more. “God why are you doing this to me? You promised your love to me, you promised to care for me, and this is what I am struggling with.”

And yet, as Hebrews 12 says, what Father does not discipline his children? If we undergo trials, it is for discipline, and it is the Father who disciplines us, so that we might imitate His righteousness. When we go through trials and struggles and sorrows it is for our good, so that we might be made more like our Saviour, and like our Heavenly Father. And of course, in the moment we can’t see that, and we shouldn’t look for that, to try and say “what am I supposed to be learning right now, from this trial I am going through”.

No, providence is best read backwards. To look back and say “when I went through that trial, it was God who strengthened me to get through it, it is he who upheld my faith in the midst of despair, brought me through it, and my faith is stronger as a result. My faith has been refined by fire.

Ruth trusts in the providence of this God that she has come to believe in. Despite her hunger, despite her loneliness, her doubts and fears, she goes to glean in the fields, and she happened to come by providence of God to the field of Boaz.

And as it happened, Boaz is also in field, and he sees this new girl who has come to glean in the fields. Why does he notice Ruth? Well, we aren’t told. The romantics among you might say it was because of her beauty, and that it was love at first sight, and well, I’m not going to take that away from you if that is what you want to think.

Ruth would certainly have stuck out. As a Moabite, she would have dressed differently, she would have stuck out a little bit, and she would have been noticed in a small town like Bethlehem. Everyone would know everyone else, and Ruth was someone new.

So Boaz would have been informed by his servant. “This is Ruth the Moabite, who came with Naomi”. And now the tension is, how will Boaz react when he learns there is a Moabite gleaning in his field? Will he drive her away?

No. We find that he responds as a godly man. We see that he is a godly man from the first words we read about him. He comes in and declares the Lord’s blessing to his servants, he says “may the Lord be with you!” And they respond “may the Lord bless you”.

And we see it even more in his treatment of Ruth.

Boaz finds out who she is, that she has been diligently working in the fields all day long, he responds as a godly man. He tells her to stay in his fields where she will be safe, to stay close to his maidservants. Why does he protect her? Well, in verse 11 we read

“all that you have done for your mother in law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and mother and the land of your birth and came to a people who you did not previously know”

That phrase “you did not previously know” literally could mean “the day before yesterday”. Boaz embraces her because she has been faithful to Naomi, because she abandoned family, abandoned her people and future to cling to this woman, to care for this Israelite woman. And even more than that, not only do they have a common people, they have a common God.

What is interesting is that Boaz doesn’t point out the obvious fact that they are related. He doesn’t say “I am going to care for you because you are a distant relation to me.”

No, there is something much deeper that connects them. More than their race, more than their clan, what connects them is that they are both God’s people. Verse 12 reads:

“May the Lord reward your work and your wages be full from the Lord, under whose arms you have come to seek refuge.”

Boaz cares for Ruth because Ruth followed Naomi into the arms of the Lord – and that creates the unbreakable connection between Ruth and Boaz.

Brothers and sisters, this is what church supposed to be! That the most fundamental connection that you should have with other people is that you are brothers and sisters in Christ. It is stronger than any bond you can have with an unbeliever.

Because it is this faith that breaks down all the barriers between Jew and Gentle, between slave and free, between wealthy and poor, and it is this faith that unites us as a temple of God.

This is what Paul says in Ephesians 2,

“For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.”

That we together by faith are united as a temple of the Lord.

Ruth is an early harbinger of the New Testament reality that Paul speaks of in Gal 3, that we are all one in Christ.

That the true Israel is inward, that we are all united to Christ and to each other by faith. Boaz recognizes this long before Paul ever said it. And as a result he pours out his kindness on Ruth.

He feeds her with own hand, from his own table, he brings her into his own home. And he lavishes on her as much barley as she can carry, even from his own personal harvest.

And he does this for a Moabite, because she is a woman of faith.

3) Naomi Sees God’s Hand

Ruth brings all this barley home to Naomi, and we are told it is an ephah, which is around 20 litres. If you want to visualize this, think of one of those large water bottles sitting on top of an office water-cooler. That is a sizeable amount of barley, and would have weighed around 15 kg. This was enough barley to feed Ruth and Naomi for 10 days! Far more than Naomi expected for Ruth to come home with. She obviously had low expectations, and didn’t think Ruth would have much success. So when she sees the results, she saw this massive amount of barley, and she wonders what happened!

She knows something special has happened. You see, gleaners don’t struggle home with such a load of grain. Someone went above and beyond for Ruth’s sake, and so Naomi says “Blessed be the man who took notice of you”.

And she finds out it is Boaz, and she says to her daughter in law in verse 20 “May he be blessed of the Lord who has not withdrawn his kindness to the living and the dead.” Isn’t that beautiful, that this woman, who in the chapter before said “God has removed his kindness from me.”

In this act of Boaz, she sees the Lord’s kindness coming back to her again. “The Lord who has not withdrawn his kindness to the living and the dead.”

This is what Naomi is beginning to see, that the Lord is not against her, but that he is beginning to provide for her, and for Ruth.

You might be asking yourself “Why does the Lord get all the credit?” Didn’t Boaz pour out his generosity on Ruth, doesn’t Boaz get some credit for what he has done?

Well, if we say say “Did the Lord do it or did Boaz do it”, we are presenting a false choice. For even Boaz himself says in verse 12– “may the Lord reward your work, and your wages be full from the Lord the God of Israel” And then he himself takes the initiative to reward her for her work.

Similarly, when the deacons come and provide help to someone, is it the deacons who do it or is it the Lord? It is once again a false choice. It is God who is providing his people what they need through his means, through his appointed means, through his people.

And what is wonderful is that Naomi herself recognises this, that it is God who has provided for her, through Boaz. And yes, now she sees that this faithful man Boaz, is demonstrating to her through his actions the faithfulness of God. That God is for her, that God loves her, and is giving her hope. She has gone through this horrible, difficult trial, and she coming out the other side. And she is confessing once again the covenant faithfulness of God

Now her faith is not perfect, she is not there yet, and we are going to see this demonstrated in the next chapter. And yet she is on the path to taking refuge under the wings of the Almighty, and she now has come to believe that he is not against her, but is willing to watch over her and care for her.

And brothers and sisters, we believe in the same God who watches over us by his providence. Because God is faithful to those who love him, we take shelter under his wings. He is faithful to his covenant promises, he loves us, he cares for us, he gives us what we need, for body and soul, and what this means is that when we go through trials, when we go through deep sorrow, even when we go through persecution, he is with us all the way, that he is turning whatever we suffer to our good, and that he is leading us on, to glory.

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. David Stares, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. David Stares

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