The Ministry of Mercy
THE MINISTRY OF MERCY
If you have a Bible and I hope you do, I invite you to open with me to Ruth 2. Ruth 2. As you’re turning in your Bibles to Ruth, I want to remind you of what I hope is obvious, but I want to make sure to point out the poetry that we’re using is extra-Biblical. In other words, it’s not exactly the words of Scripture, not equivalent to Scripture. I hope it doesn’t contradict Scripture, but it does take some liberties and some licenses with ideas, possibilities for what could’ve happened here or there.
The whole point is, to help us explore some concepts and things that are in Scripture, but I want to make sure that we distinguish between the two and what we know is true, what does Thorne say to this, what we are going to read here in Scripture. Even the picture of white and black and the photography here is not an exactly parallel, so to speak, to Israelites and Moabites, but hopefully, it’s giving a depiction of the very real ethnic racial tension that was evident in this whole picture that’s unfolding in the Book of Ruth.
So, last week we started the first of four weeks in this ultimate Old Testament love story that puts romance novels and movies in our culture to absolute shame. This is real, solid, authentic love story right here. And I want to make sure that if you missed last week, that you’re not too far behind, as far as the story up to this point. So I want to recap what we have already seen in Ruth 1, set the stage for what we’re going to see in Ruth 2.
So overview in a nutshell of Ruth 1. The story really starts, it revolves, the first chapter, around Naomi. Naomi had a husband named Elimelech and two sons and they lived in Bethlehem. Bethlehem is called the house of bread, but there was a time in Bethlehem where there was a famine and there was no bread and so, Elimelech led his family, Naomi and his sons to leave behind the Promised Land, leave behind Bethlehem and go to the land of compromise, which in this case is Moab. Moab has a storied history. You saw this in the poetry. This is definitely there in Genesis.
Basically, the Moabites were begun when Lot had an incestual relationship with his daughter, not a very proud past. And then, there was a point in the Old Testament where the Moabites had actually countered the Israelites, and then another point where Moabite women, in particular, Moabite women had seduced Israelite men into sexual immorality and idolatry, brought the judgment of God upon the people of Israel. 24,000 people were killed as a result of what Moabite women had done in seducing Israelite men. And so, needless to say, the relationships between Israelites and Moabites were not too positive. Certainly, a shameful storied past, when you think about Moab from the standpoint of Israel.
And so we got this picture of Elimelech leading his family, of all places, to Moab. Now when they get there, unexpectedly, all of a sudden, Elimelech dies and so Naomi is left with her two sons who end up marrying two Moabite daughters-in-law. This is not working out the way Naomi had planned her life, as now, she find herself in a foreign land with two daughters-in-law who are of all people, they’re Moabites, Orpah and Ruth. And then after around 10 childless years where neither of her sons and their wives have children, her sons unexpectedly die and she is now left alone, a widow, childless with two Moabite daughters-in-law, who are also now widows, childless.
She hears news that bread has returned to Bethlehem and there is food there and so she begins a journey back to Bethlehem. On the way she tries to dissuade Orpah and Ruth from going with her. For their good, it would be better for them she says, to stay back in Moab, to find a husband, to start a family. If they were to come with her, they would basically be committing themselves to perpetual widowhood and childlessness. Orpah is dissuaded and she turns and goes back.
But in Ruth 1:16 and 17, one of the most majestic pictures of commitment in all the Scripture, Ruth clings to Naomi and says, “I’m going with you. Your people will be my people. Your God will be my God and I’m going to be buried with you.” And she commits herself to stay with Naomi. And so the end of Ruth 1, pictures Ruth and Naomi coming together in to Bethlehem. All the people who knew Naomi are coming up to her and saying, “Hey, Naomi” and she immediately looks back at them.
Naomi’s name means “Pleasant or lovely” and she looks back at them and says, “My name is no longer Naomi. I went away with everything I loved and I come back with nothing, so call me Mara.” That word means “bitterness.” “Because God has afflicted me and He has brought misfortune upon me.” And there she stands with Ruth by her side, a picture of her husband’s sin and leaving the Promised Land behind to go off to another land and coming back, now with a Moabite daughter-in-law. And that’s where the end of Ruth, 1, leaves us, with a little glimmer of hope because the barley harvest was beginning. And that sets the stage for Ruth 2:1.
Now what we’re going to do tonight is similar to what we did last week. We’ve got an outline. You’ve got some notes, but we’re not going to dive into that quite yet. Instead, we’re going to walk slowly through this chapter and just take it verse by verse and let the story unfold. What we want to do is we want to try to get into the minds of the original readers when they were hearing this story told. We want to put ourselves in the story. We want to see the faces on the characters in this story. We want to feel their emotions. We want to catch the weight and the depth of what they’re saying to each other and that’s going to cause us to pause, see some nuances in the language and what the author, the narrator under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is doing very intentionally throughout this story to give us a picture of a much grander story that we’re going to see unfold over these four weeks.
So we’re going to start on Ruth 2:1 and just kind of go line by line, so to speak. Remember the truth, one more thing from last week, the truth that really encapsulated what we saw last week as the God and His sovereign design ordains sorrowful tragedy to set the stage for surprising triumph. What we saw last week is that God sovereignly ordains tragedy to set the stage for triumph and that in those moments when it may seem that God is farthest from us, He may just be laying the foundations for the greatest displays of His faithfulness to us. When God seem farthest from us, He may be laying the foundations for the greatest displays of His faithfulness to us. So that leaves us sorrow, tragedy, looking for triumph.
Ruth 2:1, the author writes, “Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, from the clan of Elimelech,a man of standing, whose name was Boaz.” Pause for a second there. End of Ruth 1, you got two main characters left, the odd couple, Naomi and Ruth, together at the end of Ruth 1. Widowed, childless with major needs, they were in need – we identified this last week – in need of food and in need of family and that’s what the rest of the book, somehow is going to have to solve. How are they going to be provided for food and with family.
And so, Ruth 2:1, it’s kind of the picture of enter the knight in shining armor, Boaz. And there’s two integral facts about Boaz here that are mentioned in verse 1. Number one, he’s from the clan of Elimelech. Now the way that Israelite society works is as an individual, you are part of a family. Your family is a part of a clan, and different clans made up tribes. So you got individual, family, clan, tribe and this clan level was the most important social family group that there was in Israelite society.
The picture about why that was so important is because if you were a part of someone’s clan, then you had responsibilities for caring for others, providing for others in that clan. So, this is significant. Boaz is from the same clan as Elimelech was, Naomi’s husband. That’s the first fact. Second fact, it says he’s a man of standing, which could be a reference to his wealth, he was very well off, could also be a reference simply to his character. This is the same phrase that’s used back in Judges 6, to describe Gideon as a man of might or a man of valor.
And so what we’ve got is this picture of Boaz as kind of the knight in shining armor. Now he doesn’t enter into the action, yet. We’re about to shift back in verse 2 to Ruth and Naomi, but what we’ve got is the author saying “Okay, there’s a guy out here named Boaz, from the clan of Elimelech, who’s a pretty solid guy. Verse 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 favor.’ Naomi said to her, ‘Go ahead, my daughter’” (Ruth 2:2).
Now here’s the pattern here. God had set up in the harvest season, means for providing for the poor and the destitute, those who had no land, those who had no food. And the means He had set up was—in the law He had commanded—landowners, harvesters during harvest season, when they were harvesting the grain, to leave corners of the fields to leave behind here and there, barley grain in order for the poor and the destitute to come behind and be provided for. God had set that up in the Old Testament, to lay the groundwork for the situation here, so that Ruth and Naomi with nothing to their name, Ruth can say, “I’m going to go out and see if I can find a landowner or harvester who is following God’s command who would grant me favor.”
Now she’s got to be granted favor, because the reality is, she’s a foreign woman in the Israelite culture and she’s has to find a field where somebody would let her come behind and at least get a little bit of grain here or there to be provided for. She is looking of somebody who will let her get a little bit of food, maybe it’ll last a day or two, maybe it’ll last a couple of days, just a little bit of grain to get them by. So, this is where it gets really good.
Verse 3 says, “She went out and began to glean in the fields behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who” just in case you forgot, “was from the clan of Elimelech” (Ruth 2:3). What a coincidence. And this is the way the author, look at that phrase, “As it turned out”, literally it means “As chance, chance.” We would say it today, “As luck would have it” she just happened to go out into the middle of all these fields in Judah and she just happened to find herself in… And who would have thought? “In Boaz’s field.” This is the picture here.
Brothers and sisters, hold on to this truth. Nothing happens by accident in the economy of God. Nothing happens by accident. Everything happens by appointment. We are not driven or caught up in some blind impersonal force of chance or coincidence. There is a sovereign God, a sovereign God who is always orchestrating the events of His people for their good and His glory, always.
When I think about this picture, my mind immediately goes, particularly in the concern for the poor here. My mind immediately goes to the adoption journey that Heather and I went on in adopting our son, Caleb from Kazakhstan. I think about all the accidents, so to speak, the “just so happen.” When we just so happened to go years and God withholding giving children from us, to lead us to begin to think and to pray about the possibility of adoption. And we sat down with literally a map of the world in front of us, do we adopt from here, domestically? Do we adopt internationally? If internationally, where do we adopt from? And we began to research different countries.
And we come across Kazakhstan. I didn’t even know where Kazakhstan was. I’m not sure I even knew Kazakhstan was, like that it existed. I’m not sure what I knew about it, but all of a sudden we find ourselves looking at the possibility of adopting a child from Kazakhstan? And as our hearts and our minds were drawn toward Kazakhstan, it just so happened that right up the street from where we were living, was an adoption agency that specialized in adoptions from Kazakhstan. Like they knew it existed as well. And it just so happened that we were living right down the road from them, because it just so happened a hurricane had come and taken our house under water in New Orleans.
So, okay, all of a sudden they’re sending us information and we’re sending in an application, and thus begins a paperwork process of trying to fill out this and that, going through every conceivable government agency there is to try to show that we can have a child and getting caught up at this moment, getting stalled at this moment and wondering why is this happening? Until, until 14 months later our paperwork is finally done, finally complete sitting in Kazakhstan. The next child to become available is a little guy in a small obscure city in Kazakhstan called Yorosk.
When we, two weeks later happen to find ourselves on the plane into Kazakhstan in a small airplane into this small obscure city where there are hundreds of orphans in this city, and we go to one orphanage and all of a sudden this little guy is put in our arms. When I looked at my son, Caleb, my heart cries out, “God is sovereign.” There was not one detail in that entire journey that He was not totally behind to lead us to this little guy. Think about it. There’s nothing in your life or my life that has happened this past week that is accidental, that God is divinely orchestrating the events of your week to come for your good and His glory.
This is incredible and it gets even better in verse 4, “Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem” (Ruth 2:4). I mean, this is too much! Like, okay, Ruth just happened to come into Boaz’s field and when she got there, you’ll never guess who happened to show up at the exact same time. Guys, have you ever been watching like a sappy movie with your wife and you’re watching these events unfold and it is so illogical, it’s absurd? Like these details never happen this way. They never come together like this and you’re thinking, “This is ridiculous.” And you’re about ready to turn it off and speak up and say something and you turn to say something to your wife and you look at her. My wife, she’ll either be with this huge smile on her face like engulfed in the story, like this is too good to be true. Or she’ll be in tears, just thinking “this could never happen”. I’ll look at her, it’ll be like, “Ah, come on.”
This does not work that way and so you just stomach it. But here’s the deal. It does work that way. It does work that way under a sovereign God. We sang about this earlier. “Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, ‘The Lord be with you!’” (Ruth 2:4), which you can tell a lot in the Old Testament about someone based on the first words that come out of their mouth. And so we’ve got a picture from the very beginning Boaz comes on the scene, a man of God. They respond, “‘The Lord bless you!’ they called back” (Ruth 2:4).
And then, verse 5, “Boaz asked the foreman of his harvesters, ‘Whose young woman is that?’” (Ruth 2:5). “Check her out” is what that means in the original language of the Old Testament. Of all the people in the field… Now notice, he doesn’t say, “Who is that?” He says, “Who’s young woman is that?” meaning “To whom does she belong? What clan is she a part of?” Setting off the tension that is here in the Book of Ruth because she is a Moabite daughter-in-law with no husband, no clan to live with, she’s a part. She is in need of a family and that’s exactly how the foreman replied.
Verse 6, “She is the Moabitess who came back from Moab with Naomi” (Ruth 2:6). The author’s making you see it in verse 2, “Ruth the Moabitess”, here in verse 6, “the Moabitess who came back from Moab with Naomi” (Ruth 2:6). The emphasis, “She’s not from here.” Verse 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” (Ruth 2:7). And so, Boaz gets filled in a little bit and immediately says, “I’m going to talk to her.” And so what happens is basically Boaz begins making a beeline to Naomi.
Which think about it, this is surprising. The wealthy Israelite landowner is now going directly to the Moabite woman foreigner in his field, the lowest rung on the social ladder. Listen to what he says, “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. 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’” (Ruth 2:8-9).
How’s that for an Old Testament pick up line right there? It’s not the sharpest pick up line you’ve ever heard, but when you really think about it, this is incredible what Boaz is saying to Ruth. This term of endearment, “My daughter listen to me.” And he says, he repeats himself, “Don’t go and glean another field. Don’t go away from here. Stay here.” You might circle that word, ‘stay here’ and make a little note out on the side. It’s the same word that we’ve already seen used in Ruth 1:14, when Ruth clung to Naomi and we talked about last week, that’s the same word also that’s used back in Genesis 2:24 we had this picture of marriage and the husband leaving his family and cleaving, clinging to his wife.
So the picture here is “You stay here.” You can almost picture an emphatic gesture in Boaz’s language. “Don’t go to that field, don’t go to any of these other fields. You stay right here. You’ll be provided for in this field and you’ll be protected in this field.” It’s common apparently in that day for women, particularly foreigners to be abused or mistreated, at the very least, insulted in the fields. He says, “You’ll be protected here and then, whenever you’re thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.”
If we’re original readers or original hearers here, our jaws are on the ground. This is shocking. All the lines that Boaz is crossing to go to this Moabite woman and reaching out to her like this. “You can drink from these jars”, this is a day when foreigner filled jars for Israelites to drink and when women filled jars for men to drink and what you’ve got here is Israelite men filling jars for a Moabite woman to drink. We’re shocked when we’re hearing this in it’s original context, which is why we’re not surprised when we get to verse 10, we’re going to think, “Well this sounds like it’s kind of overdoing it.” But this made total sense in light of what had just happened.
“At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground” (Ruth 2:1), it’s the Old Testament word for worship there. “She exclaimed, ‘Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?’” (Ruth 2:10). That’s the question of the chapter right there. It’s set up at the very beginning. I’m in need of someone who will show favor to me. And she’s sitting here shocked. “Why have you shown such favor to me? I’m not deserving. I’m a foreigner. Why have you shown such mercy to me?” That question sets a beautiful dialogue that happens in this chapter between Boaz and Ruth.
Boaz’s words to Ruth and Ruth’s response to Boaz, majestic, poetic language that gives us a picture of blessing and mercy and love. Listen to this picture in verse 11, “Boaz replied, ‘I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before.May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord” (Ruth 2:11-12), listen to this phrase, underline verse 12. “May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge” (Ruth 2:12).
The imagery there. “You have planted your life under the wings of the Lord, the God of Israel, under His wings you have taken refuge.” And then, Ruth responds, “‘May I continue to find favor 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’” (Ruth 2:13). Basically, Ruth just said, “Though I am on the lowest rung of the social ladder, you have comforted my heart and you have spoken to my soul.”
It’s the kind of language that in Ruth 1:16 and 17, when she spoke to Naomi, left Naomi speechless. And the same thing happens here between verse 13 and 14 there’s pregnant pause, so to speak, as Boaz says nothing in return. The stage is set for verse 14 now. Listen to what happens. There’s time that passes here during the day and then it says, in verse 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” (Ruth 2:14).
Oh yeah. This is the first date in the Book of Ruth, here, a nice romantic meal over roasted grain. You can’t beat this drama right here. And not just a meal, this is deeper, this is a symbol; this is a picture of fellowship at the table and not just sitting at the table. Listen to this picture, “When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain.” It’s the only time that word ‘offered her’ is used in the Old Testament. It’s is a picture of how he served her. This is not just a Moabite foreigner woman who is invited to the table. This is Boaz going to her and literally serving her at his table, the Lord of the harvest serving the foreigner at his table. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar.
You know what I’ve got in my mind here? Macaroni Grill. Have you ever been to Macaroni Grill? That’s what I’m picturing here. Macaroni Grill, just a side note here. If you’ve never been, this is the way to do it, especially if you got young kids. You go early and you eat outside because that way you don’t disturb all the people that are having like real romantic dinners inside. So you get outside, they can make all the noise they want and what you do is, you split a meal with your wife and you split a meal for the kids and then you fill the rest of the family up on bread, the whole deal.
You can drink water and make it out of there in less than $20.00. That’s the way to do it. So, did you write that down? Like that’s good information, right? Spit the meal with your wife. Split the meal with the kids. Lot of bread, water, less than 20 bucks. You just had dinner at Macaroni Grill, outside. Don’t forget the outside. That’s key. And not just bread. Not just bread. If you’ve been to Macaroni Grill you know, it’s bread, all the bread you want to fill up on, and then they’ve got this concoction in the middle with oil, vinegar, pepper. I don’t know what all they put in that goodness, but it is good and just dip it in. That’s the picture.
This is the Barely Grill here. Have some bread. Dip it in the wine vinegar. So that’s what’s going on here with Ruth and Boaz, eating at the table and she is chowing down, “She ate all she wanted and had some left over” (Ruth 2:14). She eats ‘til she is full and then, Boaz brings his buddies in and says, “Okay, I need your help, guys.” Verse 15, “As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, ‘Even if she gathers among the sheaves, don’t embarrass her. Rather, pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up and don’t rebuke her” (Ruth 2:15-16). Again, she’ll be provided for and protected. Boaz is going to make sure of it.
And the result is, verse 17, “So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah” (Ruth 2:17). Now listen to this. Ephah—how much is that? Well, one commentary said it’s about half to two thirds a bushel. It’s like thanks a lot. Now let’s take it a step further. Half to two thirds of a bushel, between 30 and 50 pounds. Now a little perspective here. Ancient Babylonia, average ration for a male worker per day, one to two pounds. One to two pounds a day. She just walked away with 30 to 50 pounds. And we know Ruth is a pretty tough woman because the next verse says, “She carried it back to town” (Ruth 2:18).
So she straps on 30 to 50 pounds of grain and starts the haul back home. And listen to what happens—this is good—“And her mother-in-law saw how much she had gathered” (Ruth 2:18). Now just picture. Do you see Naomi’s face? Like she’s been sitting there all day hoping that Ruth is maybe safe, maybe she’ll come back with a little meal for the evening and she comes back hauling 30 to 50 pounds of grain. Ruth also… This is where it’s really funny. “Ruth also brought out and gave her what she had left over after she had eaten enough” (Ruth 2:18). So not only does Ruth come and throw down 30 to 50 pounds of grain and Naomi has just got her jaw on the ground, but then Ruth reaches into her back pocket and says, “Here’s some Macaroni Grill that I had, as well.”
It’s been a good day, Naomi. And Naomi is giddy, okay? Remember the last time we saw Naomi? Bitterness. She has gone from bitterness to blessedness. Now she’s been sitting at home all day. Could it be, brothers and sisters, that in the middle of our sorrow and our suffering, God may just be plotting for our satisfaction? Could it be that in the depth of our sorrow and our suffering that God of the Universe is at that very moment plotting for our satisfaction? She’s giddy. “Her mother-in-law asked her, ‘Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you’” (Ruth 2:19). She repeats herself, “Where did you glean? Where did you work?” Words are just fumbling out of her mouth. “Blessed be this man.”
Now here’s the deal. What we realize as readers and hearers from the very beginning, here, what we realize is that the best news is still yet to be told. Yeah, I mean, this is great, 30 to 50 pounds of grain, some bread and vinegar from the Barley Grill. That’s good, but, there’s something better that we know here. Now Ruth knows where she’s been working, in the fields of Boaz, but Ruth doesn’t know the significance of Boaz. Naomi knows who Boaz is, but she doesn’t know whose field Ruth has been working in and so the main piece of information is still yet to unfold. You think Naomi’s happy now, and what the author does is very intentionally, and the very next sentence that Ruth says, the author makes sure to save the name of whose fields she has been working in until the very last word in the sentence.
So it’s kind of building, as hearers, as readers of the story, what we were doing is we were just looking at Naomi’s face. We cannot wait for her to hear whose field Ruth has been in. You think this is good, because all this food, listen to this, “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” (Ruth 2:19). And Naomi is stunned—“‘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 kinsmen-redeemers’” (Ruth 2:20).
I want you to circle two words in verse 20. There are two words that we’re not going to unpack in depth tonight, but we will in the next two weeks that are key. First, ‘kindness’, “He has not stopped showing his kindness.” It’s a key Old Testament word. Loving kindness, grace, mercy. And you know, even here there’s a lot of debate over who the ‘he’ is in this passage. “He has not stopped showing his kindness.” Is that talking about the Lord? Is that Yahweh? Or is that talking about Boaz? But the reality is, is we’re going to see in a minute, it’s really both, the kindness, loving kindness, mercy. Circle that word. We’re going to come back to that more next week, and then the second word to circle is at the very end of verse 20, ‘Kinsman redeemer.” Circle that. We’re going to see this in the next two weeks.
Leviticus has set up a picture where kinsman redeemer, two-fold picture. Kinsman, one who is a relative, one who is a part of a family or clan, would have a right of redemption, a right to purchase, to buy back property, to provide for someone whose family had left them destitute, someone whose husband had died, so to speak. Kinsman redeemer. We’re going to come back to that, but just hold onto those two terms. They’re key.
And so Ruth realizes that this is not just an extremely honorable man who has helped her that day, this is a kinsman redeemer. “Then Ruth the Moabitess said, ‘He even said to me, ‘“Stay with my workers until they finish harvesting all my grain”’” (Ruth 2:21). And so, in quintessential fashion Naomi, the mother-in-law, begins plotting the next step. “Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, ‘It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with his girls, because in someone else’s field you might be harmed’” (Ruth 2:22). “So you stay in those fields.” And that’s exactly what she does. “So Ruth stayed close to the servant girls of Boaz to glean until the barley and wheat harvest were finished” (Ruth 2:23).
Now, here’s the deal. Two major problems in the Book of Ruth that need to be solved, they were in need of food and in need of family. Food, check. The reality is, she stayed in the fields of Boaz gleaning until the barley and wheat harvest were finished, the next two or three months she was harvesting, day after day after day. We don’t know if she walked home with 30 to 50 pounds every day, but the likelihood is that by the end of that two or three months, in a matter of weeks, Ruth had experienced the provision of God through the kindness of Boaz that would take her and Naomi through the rest of the year. It’s an amazing—provision.
But with all the action that we have in Ruth 2, you get to the very last sentence, the very last phrase, and it is a dud. It is the most anti-climatic ending to a chapter. What happened? It’s almost like when you’re watching a show and its getting to the end, like, hey, all the pieces are coming together and then one little piece falls apart and the screen goes black and the words come up and says, “To be continued next week.” No. And that’s happens.
Listen to this last phrase, after two or three months, weeks, weeks, weeks, weeks, Ruth has been working in the fields of Boaz. You would think something would happen, at the very end, the author says, “And she lived with her mother-in-law” (Ruth 2:23). Ah. Talk about disappointing. You’re thinking, “Boaz, what are you waiting for, man? She’s in your field for two or three months and at the end, remember the problems. They needed food, they needed family. They needed food, we got that checked off, but the big problem is still out there. Ruth is still a Moabitess, verse 21, living with her mother in law. Talk about lack of plot resolution, and that’s where Ruth 2 leaves us. So, unfortunately that’s where we’re going to stop tonight, in the story.
The Gospel According to Boaz…
So what do we have to learn from Ruth 2? What is the Holy Spirit of God teaching us? What I want to do is I want to show you two facets of the gospel that are emphasized here in Ruth 2. I want us to start with the gospel according to Boaz. What do I mean by that? This is one of the things I love most about the Book of Ruth. We do not see God explicitly mentioned in every single verse in the book of Ruth. We see words like we saw in verse 3, “As it turned out” that point us to the fact that God is working behind the scenes in all these things, but the way Ruth is written is intentional to show us that God is working behind the scenes in what the characters in the story are doing.
Here’s the deal. The characters in this story are ultimately revealing the character of God to us. God is showing His love for Naomi, how? Through radical devotion from Ruth to Naomi. God is showing His concern for the poor and the foreigner, the alien, how? By Boaz’s concern for the poor, the alien. What we’re seeing in the characters in the story is a picture of the character of God. And so, this is not just trying to pull some preacher trick where I bring something. This is intentional where the author of Ruth is showing us a picture, a glimpse of the character of God that helps us to understand the gospel in the character of Boaz.
He seeks the outcast as his family.
Think about what Boaz does in Ruth 2. He seeks the outcast as his family. We saw it over and over and over again from verse 2 all the way to verse 21 and everywhere in between. Ruth, the Moabitess, Ruth from Moab, who came from Moab. Ruth, who left her homeland, who doesn’t belong here. Ruth the Moabitess, over and over and over again, she is an outcast. But what’s interesting is when you get to the end of the chapter, it says over and over again, Ruth the Moabitess, but from all we can tell, it looks a lot like she’s a part of Boaz’s family, doesn’t it?
I mean, she is working in Boaz’s fields. She is eating at Boaz’s table. He is even serving her. She’s walking home with grain from Boaz’s fields to fill her home. It seems like she’s a part of his family but she is still an outcast. Here’s the picture. Boaz is seeking the outcast as if she were his own family.
He shelters the weak under his wings.
Second, he shelters the weak under his wings. I want to use the language here that’s used in verse 12 when it talks about the God of Israel under whose wings you’ll come to take refuge, the reality is, how is Ruth being protected in this chapter? Under whose wings? Under Boaz’s wings in Boaz’s fields. That’s where she is being protected. He’s sheltering the weak under his wings, making sure that she is not abused, mistreated, insulted, whatever could happen, no, not to Ruth, because he shelters the weak under his wings.
He serves the hungry at his table.
Third, he serves the hungry at his table. You think about that scene. We joked about it a bit, but think about it, and we talked a little bit about this last week. In our affluence, very few of us know what it is like to be without food, to not know if food is coming at all. The picture here is Ruth having traveled back from Moab with Naomi into the land of Bethlehem with nothing and no one to provide for them, hoping to go out and get a little bit of food that day. Now all of a sudden, she finds herself sitting at the table feasting on what Boaz’s family is feasting on. Not only sitting at the table, but being served at the table by the lord of the harvest, himself. He serves the hungry at his table
He showers the needy with his grace.
And finally, he showers the needy with his grace. Day one, walking away with 30 to 50 pounds of grain and leftover lunch, who knows day after day after day after day the abundance that is building showering the needy with his grace. So this is the picture of Boaz. He seeks the outcasts as his family, shelters the weak under his wings, serves the hungry at his table and showers the needy with his grace.
The Gospel Applied at Brook Hills…
Now what I want to do is I want us to take this picture and consider how that applies to us, the faith family, to us in this room, the Gospel applied at Brook Hills. Now I want us to think about this picture of Boaz, the gospel according to Boaz, on two levels, from two different perspectives, so to speak.
First, from the perspective of Boaz who is the one who is showing this love and then second, from the perspective of Ruth, who is receiving this kind of love. So I want us to consider how the gospel affects the way we show love, as a faith family, and then second, how the gospel affects the way we receive love.
We will spend our lives for the poor.
First the way we show love, based on this picture of Boaz, the gospel applied at Brook Hills means that we will spend our lives for the poor. We will spend our lives for the poor. Don’t miss this. The purpose of Boaz’s concern for the poor is to show us God’s concern for the poor. God is behind this whole picture. He leads Ruth and Naomi back to Bethlehem at the very time where His law has set up for them to be provided for.
It’s Deuteronomy 10:18, “[God] defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.” Ruth 2 is playing that out. Boaz is the immediate provider here for the poor, in Ruth 2, but God is the ultimate provider here in Ruth 2. And what we’re seeing here in Ruth is a picture of what, not just this human author is doing, but what the divine author of Scripture, the Holy Spirit is doing throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament, God has ordained for His people to be a demonstration of His radical care for the poor. God has ordained His people to be a display of how much He loves the poor and how He cares for the poor. And this is one of the takeaways we must see in Ruth 2, in this room, how we need to see to this.
As people look at our lives, individually, our families all across this room and this faith family, as people read our story, observe our story, do people walk away from our story saying, “God has great care and compassion for the poor?” We need to hear this. Think about it in this room, in this room alone, tonight, there are literally millions upon millions upon millions upon millions of dollars in houses and cars and clothes and stuff in this room, alone, tonight. Millions.
And then over there, there’s a world that is living on less than $2.00 a day, half the world. There are 16,000 children today who have breathed their last breath because no one gave them a meal. There’s a state we live in where not too far from here there are people living with no plumbing and little food. We’re a society where in this culture right around this location, the average master bathroom is bigger than slums where whole families live in India. And so it begs the question, are we a visible demonstration of the God who cares for the poor and who loves the outcast? Are we seeking them as our family, sheltering them under our wings, serving them at our table?
We know we live in a culture that encourages us to ignore the poor. We are inundated in a picture that we are a part of. It’s not outside of us. It is in us, that says, “The more successful we become, the more things we have.” And you move from this size house to this size house to this size house. You move from this kind of car to this kind of car to this kind of car. You have this amount of clothes, you get nicer and nicer. You get this stuff and more and more and more and more. And that is a sign of success, satisfaction and pleasure and we translate that over into the church.
We do the same thing. A successful church is bigger and better. The empire just grows. The stuff that we have and the programs that revolve around us, the more the better. But the reality that Scripture is teaching, is that is not New Testament religion. New Testament religion says, the more we grow in God, the less we spend on ourselves. So are we growing in God? Or are our lives showing a betrayal of that which is most important to God? Reality is, no matter what we say or sing on Sunday night in this room, if we’re not caring for the poor, the Bible says we’re not people of God.
And Ruth 2 is beckoning us in this room to consider how we, as individuals and families and as a church, amidst these trends bigger and better, brothers and sisters, we must reverse the trend. And we must spend our lives for that which God has said is most important and in the process, we will be a demonstration of His character to the world. God may it be so. It’s not easy. This leads to the second truth here, tie these two together. Don’t just stop there because if we stop there, we’re going to feel guilty. What do you do with that? Now take it to this next step because I want you to see the gospel here, the gospel applied in this faith family.
We will rest our lives under His protection.
We will spend our lives for the poor because the second truth, we will rest our lives under His protection. We will rest our lives under His protection. Now, go to Ruth’s perspective for a second, the one who is loved. To use the language in verse 12, to take shelter under the wings of God, refuge under the wings of God, the picture here is beautiful, like a bird bringing her chicks under her wings caring for her. Now I want us to see. We’re going to think about this in just a second. I want to kind of dive into what it means to be loved like that, to rest our lives under His protection, but I want us to see these two truths going together here and see how resting our lives under His protection, enables us to spend our lives for the poor.
We will be free to spend ourselves for the sake of those who are poor around us and to give ourselves away when we are convinced that our God will take care of us. As long as we think we need more stuff in order to be satisfied, in order to be happy, in order to experience all we want in life, we need more in this or that. As long as we’re in a constant pursuit for those things, then we will not spend ourselves for the poor. But, when the moment comes when we realize that we have everything we need in our God, all the satisfaction we need and we’re free from pursuing all the stuff this world pursues, now, when we rest our lives under His protection, we’re free to spend our lives for the poor.
I included these verses in here just to show the connection. Proverbs 19:17—This is playing out Ruth 2. “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done” (Prov. 19:17). Richly rewarded by the Lord is exactly what Boaz had said to Ruth. Here’s the picture, faith family, when we give ourselves for the poor, when we become a church that is spending less on ourselves and stuff for us and more for that which is closest to the heart of God, we will find great reward, great reward.
Isaiah 58, God speaking to His people and He says,
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood. Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: ‘Here am I’. If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with a pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in that of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail (Isaiah 58:6-11).
Brothers and sisters, when we spend our lives for the poor, we have no reason to fear, our God has said we will be like a spring whose waters never fail. Do you see the connection? Rest your life under His protection. Be free from the pursuit of all the stuff and when you rest your lives under His protection, you’re free to spend your life for the poor.
Now that involves taking radical steps and it looks different all across this room in different ways in our lives. Reverse that trend in individual’s families across this room, to reverse that trend in Birmingham church culture that says the more we do for ourselves, the better, the more successful we are? No. To go against that, it takes some radical steps.
Now, are we sure God is going to uphold us? Are we sure that we’ll be a spring whose waters never fail? We want to be sure of that before we step out. And Ruth 2 says, yes you can be sure. How? Go back to the gospel according to Boaz and what it means to be loved by this God. He has called our name. We are Ruth’s brothers and sisters. We were Ruth wandering in the fields, outcasts, foreigners, sinners, separated from the Lord of the harvest and He by His grace—don’t miss it—the God of the Universe came pursuing you. He took on a robe of human flesh and became a man and He suffered and died to take your sins upon Himself and He has saved you. We sang about it earlier. He’s called your name. That’s confidence that God of the Universe has called your name.
He has become our refuge, sought us as His family, called our name, He has become our refuge, sheltered us under His wings, so that even when the storm rages around us and even when difficulties befall you or me, we have a God who is a
…refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress… ‘Be still, know that [He] is God. He will be exalted…’ (Ps. 46:1-10).
He is going to exalt Himself in His provision for you, people of God. “The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Ps. 46:11). This is what we can lean on. He is a refuge, a fortress. That’s security. That’s stability. That’s safety. That all the stuff this world has to offer cannot bring.
He has become our refuge. He has satisfied our longing. The Lord of the harvest has invited you to feast at His table. Not only has He invited you to feast at His table, but He has brought you to His table to serve you there, the God of the Universe stooping in love to serve.
If that does not astound us, we do not know God. He’s serving us. Oh, I’ll say to every Christian brother and sister in this room tonight, in the words of Boaz, stay in His field. You have no need to go anywhere else. College students, as the world dangles this or that in front of you, you have no need to run after that. His field is good. It satisfies. Men, women across this room, you have no need to run into fields of materialism, success syndrome. You have no need to run into fields of pornography or addiction. You have no need to run into fields where the passions of this world are evident because this field, alone, satisfies. Those fields bring harm and danger. There is security, satisfaction for all of our longings here.
So Christian brother or sister, if you’re here tonight and you have been wandering into other fields, running after other things, God help us to see the things we’re running after, clinging to many times blindly or unknowingly running to that are robbing us of the protection and the refuge and the joy that is found in the field of God, I urge you tonight to repent, to turn from those fields and run back to Him. By His grace He calls your name, draws you to Himself and take your shelter under His wings. He’s good.
He has called our name, become our refuge, satisfied our longings and ultimately, He has saved our souls. And under His wings, brothers and sisters, we find eternal rest for Jesus Christ has taken our sins upon Himself. He has crucified them. He has died on that cross and risen from the grave as a testimony to the reality that He alone is good. He alone can satisfy now and for all of eternity. I urge you to stay in His field. Or, if you have never come to His field, to run to it tonight, to see the grace of God in even bringing you to this point at this place, to hear this story, a picture of a God who calls your name and draws you to Himself, I urge you to say “Yes, I trust in you. I need you to cover over my sins, Jesus, and to bring me into the shelter and the refuge that is found only under the wings of God.”
God give us a Ruth 2 kind of Christianity. The kind of Christianity that is totally free from the need to run around in other fields and get more stuff and pursue other pleasures, a kind of Christianity that is joyfully content and provided for in His field and as a result, we find ourselves free to spend our lives for the spiritually and physically poor all around us. God may that be so.
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