Archive for October, 2017

Ruth 3:1-18 (Part 2 of 3)
Ruth Follows Naomi’s Plan

Usually, I will relate a personal experience to the passage at hand. That’s my schtick! That’s how I make the Bible relatable to my life … to take the meaning and truth from a passage and find an experience in my life that I can use as proof of that truth. However, today, there is just so much beautiful symbolism in this story that I would not want to ruin it with some profane attempt to relate it to my mundane, ordinary life. There are two things that we have to, have to talk about here. First, the “laying at the master’s feet” and, second, the covering.

In Israelite custom, it was not uncommon for a servant to lay at their master’s feet. It was for the security of the servant and it was also for the convenience of the master. Usually, when outdoors, it was necessary to sleep with the availability of one’s weapons nearby. There were thieves and murderers in the last millennium before Christ just as there are today. When you go camping today, it is not uncommon for a dad to have a weapon nearby to protect his family from what evil person may lurk in the night or some wild animal that may approach because of the smell of some previously eaten food. As a father of a wife, two daughters, and a stepdaughter, these women are my life. All four of these ladies, I would lay my life down for. It was the same back in the day in Boaz’s and Ruth’s time. A servant who was normally unarmed would lay at their master’s feet because their master would usually “be packin’!” They would have had their choice weapon of the millennium before Christ – a sword, a club, a rod or a staff, some object of defense against marauders or wild animals.

Ruth laying at Boaz’s feet meant that she (1) was telling him that she was his servant and (2) that she wished to be under his protection and care. It takes humility to admit that you need help and become someone’s servant. It take humility to lay at someone’s feet as if they are superior to you. I know that mindsets of people about their own human rights were different back then but still there is some sense of pride swallowing to humble yourself to lay at someone’s feet. In Israelite culture, feet were considered profane in the sense that they encountered dirt and filth more than any other part of the body. Thus, feet washing when a person entered a home was not just a honorable gesture it was one considered necessary to keep one’s home holy and set apart from the profane and dirty world outside. So, to lay at someone’s feet was a recognition of one’s lowly state in relationship to the person at whose feet you were laying. Is this not symbolic of our relationship with Jesus Christ? We will come back to that thought.

Laying at his feet was recognition of the servant-master relationship but it also recognized that she was now under his protection. As a servant, she became part of which Boaz would now defend with his life. He was now responsible for her. He would make her a part of his household. He would defend her from things in the night that could hurt her. By laying at His feet, she would be protected by his weaponry that He had available. By laying at his feet, she was in proximity to the source of her defense. How symbolic is that in relation to Christ’s defense of us? We will come back to that thought.

As well, because of being a servant, they, when traveling with their master, did not necessarily have everything they needed for a night’s sleep. Everything was about the master’s comfort and not the servant’s. Thus, when sleeping outdoors and sleeping at the master’s feet, the master would often cover their servant with their blanket or covering. It demonstrated the master’s care for the servant’s well being. There is nothing worse to a master than a sick or dead servant. Through the covering, the master ensured the health and continued service of the servant. It is the same with us and Jesus. How symbolic is that? We will come back to that thought.

That’s the thing that I thought of this morning when I read through this passage for the second of three times that we will write about it – how this scene is symbolic and forward pointing to how we are in relationship to our Master, Jesus Christ. Let’s read the passage together for the first time this morning, Ruth 3:1-18:
3 One day Naomi said to Ruth, “My daughter, it’s time that I found a permanent home for you, so that you will be provided for. 2 Boaz is a close relative of ours, and he’s been very kind by letting you gather grain with his young women. Tonight he will be winnowing barley at the threshing floor. 3 Now do as I tell you—take a bath and put on perfume and dress in your nicest clothes. Then go to the threshing floor, but don’t let Boaz see you until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 Be sure to notice where he lies down; then go and uncover his feet and lie down there. He will tell you what to do.”

5 “I will do everything you say,” Ruth replied. 6 So she went down to the threshing floor that night and followed the instructions of her mother-in-law.

7 After Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he lay down at the far end of the pile of grain and went to sleep. Then Ruth came quietly, uncovered his feet, and lay down. 8 Around midnight Boaz suddenly woke up and turned over. He was surprised to find a woman lying at his feet! 9 “Who are you?” he asked.

“I am your servant Ruth,” she replied. “Spread the corner of your covering over me, for you are my family redeemer.”

10 “The Lord bless you, my daughter!” Boaz exclaimed. “You are showing even more family loyalty now than you did before, for you have not gone after a younger man, whether rich or poor. 11 Now don’t worry about a thing, my daughter. I will do what is necessary, for everyone in town knows you are a virtuous woman. 12 But while it’s true that I am one of your family redeemers, there is another man who is more closely related to you than I am. 13 Stay here tonight, and in the morning I will talk to him. If he is willing to redeem you, very well. Let him marry you. But if he is not willing, then as surely as the Lord lives, I will redeem you myself! Now lie down here until morning.”

14 So Ruth lay at Boaz’s feet until the morning, but she got up before it was light enough for people to recognize each other. For Boaz had said, “No one must know that a woman was here at the threshing floor.” 15 Then Boaz said to her, “Bring your cloak and spread it out.” He measured six scoops[a] of barley into the cloak and placed it on her back. Then he[b] returned to the town.

16 When Ruth went back to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “What happened, my daughter?”

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

18 Then Naomi said to her, “Just be patient, my daughter, until we hear what happens. The man won’t rest until he has settled things today.”

In this passage, we see that, in v. 4, that Naomi’s advice seems strange to us 21st century Americans, but she was not suggesting a seductive act. In reality, Naomi was telling Ruth to act in accordance with Israelite custom and law. It was common for a servant to lie at the master’s feet and even share a part of his covering. By observing this custom, Ruth would be symbolically informing Boaz that he could be her family redeemer and that she was his faithful servant. As her family redeemer, he would take responsibility for her and find someone to marry her or marry her himself. It was family business, nothing romantic. However, this story would later become beautifully romantic as Ruth and Boaz developed an unselfish love and deep respect for one another.

In our relationship with Jesus Christ, we must humble ourselves and lay at His feet. We cannot be in relationship with Him until we recognize his vast superiority to us. We must humble ourselves before the Creator of the Universe. We must recognize that Jesus is God. We must recognize that He is perfection and we are sinners. We must recognize that in the absence of Him, we are destined to hell. We must recognize that He was humble enough as the God of the Universe to come to earth and live as a man, live the perfect life so that he could become the once and final perfect sacrifice for man’s sins, and that He as God in the flesh was able to conquer sin and death. That is recognition that Jesus is pretty freaking awesome! And then there’s us. It takes humility to recognize that we are not in control of our lives and that we need an intervention from Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God in the flesh, the One through whom all things were created. We must humble ourselves to recognize that we are nothing compared to Him. We must humble ourselves and lay ourselves at His feet and beg simply to be His servant.

In our relationship with Jesus Christ, when we accept that we are his lowly servants and accept Him as our Savior and Redeemer and Lord, He gives us His covering. He gives us his cloak of righteousness. Our best attempts at holiness are but filthy rags in comparison to the royal robe of righteousness of Jesus Christ. In His love for us, when we accept Him as our Savior, Redeemer, and Lord, we are cloaked in his royal robe. We are covered by His righteousness. He ensures our eternal future as His servant when He covers us in His perfect royal covering. We are no more filthy rags that are exposed to the elements of sin. We are covered in His impenetrable warm covering of righteousness.

In our relationship with Jesus Christ, when we sleep at His feet in recognition of His Lordship over your lives and His covering of righteousness, we gain access to His protection from all that can hurt us and drag us down. Under His covering, we are most protected against the evil of this world. We can renounce evil and have victory over through Jesus Christ who is completely victorious and completely superior to all that is evil in the world. We cannot do it alone. We must be near and close to the Lord so that we are within His protection. When we do not sleep at the Christ’s feet, we are susceptible to the marauder and the wild animal known as Satan who wishes to ensnare us and capture us and devour us in sin so that He can say He has another one! When we rest at the Master’s feet, He will protect us. He will send the Holy Spirit to dwell in us to teach us, correct us, and remind us to stay at the Master’s feet and within His protection.

Oh wow! How this scene in Ruth chapter 3 is so symbolic of what our relationship with Jesus Christ is like. There is nothing like it. There is nothing to compare it to. That’s why today I can give no example from my life other than to say I am at the Master’s feet. I admitted that I needed Him in December 2001 and my life has changed completely since that time. It has not always been easy for this prideful sinner to lay at the Master’s feet but it is at His feet that I can be found for He is my Savior, my Redeemer, and my Lord. I am His servant. I am subject to Him at His feet. He has covered me in His blanket of righteousness. I am His. He is my Lord. He is my Savior. He is my Redeemer.

Amen and Amen.

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Ruth 3:1-18 (Part 1 of 3)
Ruth Follows Naomi’s Plan

Have you ever had someone to help you out of a jam? I guess in a way my wife and I were recently redeemers for my youngest daughter. I love my youngest daughter to death and want the best for her but it just seems as though she will never want what is best for her – what will secure her own future.

As the youngest, she really did not know much of a life when her birth mom, my first wife (God rest her soul), had a solid marriage. Taylor’s mom and I started final stages of the death march of our marriage not long after Taylor was born and by the time Taylor was 2 ½ years old, her mother and me were splitsville. So, since that time, I guess both her mother and grandmother and my parents had spoiled Taylor a great deal. And, then, there was me, after the breakup of my second marriage when Taylor was a just becoming a teenager. In those years subsequent to the break-up of my second marriage, I made up for a lot of lost time with Taylor during those years. Taylor was so spoiled that she was almost 20 years old before she got her first job. However, at some point, a child must grow up and I thought she had when she finally got a full-time customer service job with a regional pest control company. But because of her mother’s death and her inheriting her mother’s me against the world mentality, she up and quit a good job. Not perfect. There is never one of those. But a good job for a girl who decided not to go to college even though she was smart enough to excel in college. So for the last two plus years she has not worked and has all the excuses in the world why she can’t get a job. However, recently, she had a car wreck because she had a blow out on one of her tires on her beater of a car (being unemployed will prevent you from affording to buy new tires – even if she paid attention to such things).

Now, she was in a real pickle. She couldn’t get a job if she didn’t have a car. On the opposite of that coin, she couldn’t get a car if she did not have a job. After much thought and prayer, my wife suggested that we give Taylor a “hand up” by giving her Elena’s car that. It’s not new. It’s a 2008 model, but it has been taken good care of and being a Mazda it is just a good car! Otherwise, Taylor would just be one of those people operating in the water just below the surface never being able to get their head above water. It was a good idea all the way around. Taylor seemed to positive about getting her life together finally. Finally! So, with some considerable thought and prayer myself, I gave an affirmative agreement to the plan. So, without any evidence of what Taylor would do with her hand up, we did it. We gave her the car for $1.00. We helped her out by putting the title in her name, getting the registration transferred into her name and getting the insurance for the first six months set up.

What Taylor does with this assistance is up to her. We have helped her out so many times and this is one more time. At age 27, this has to be the final big push to get her grow up, get a job, and take life on instead of expecting the world to take care of her. We can’t do this anymore. Here, sweetheart, I love you but this is it. Here is your hand up out of the water. Here is your life raft. Crawl in and get on with your life and make something of it. We cannot make her want a secure life and a career. We cannot make her want to be able to live more than a hand to mouth existence. We cannot make her want to quit living life on the edge of poverty. I can’t make her want to work. I just gave her the opportunity. I gave her a way to get a job. I gave her a way to get out the pit. It is up to her to climb out though.

That’s the thing that I thought of this morning when I read through this passage for the first of three times that we will write about it. Thinking about Boaz’s decision to redeem Ruth. It was something that he did not have to do, but he did it because of his great care for her situation. Let’s read the passage together for the first time this morning, Ruth 3:1-18:
3 One day Naomi said to Ruth, “My daughter, it’s time that I found a permanent home for you, so that you will be provided for. 2 Boaz is a close relative of ours, and he’s been very kind by letting you gather grain with his young women. Tonight he will be winnowing barley at the threshing floor. 3 Now do as I tell you—take a bath and put on perfume and dress in your nicest clothes. Then go to the threshing floor, but don’t let Boaz see you until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 Be sure to notice where he lies down; then go and uncover his feet and lie down there. He will tell you what to do.”

5 “I will do everything you say,” Ruth replied. 6 So she went down to the threshing floor that night and followed the instructions of her mother-in-law.

7 After Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he lay down at the far end of the pile of grain and went to sleep. Then Ruth came quietly, uncovered his feet, and lay down. 8 Around midnight Boaz suddenly woke up and turned over. He was surprised to find a woman lying at his feet! 9 “Who are you?” he asked.

“I am your servant Ruth,” she replied. “Spread the corner of your covering over me, for you are my family redeemer.”

10 “The Lord bless you, my daughter!” Boaz exclaimed. “You are showing even more family loyalty now than you did before, for you have not gone after a younger man, whether rich or poor. 11 Now don’t worry about a thing, my daughter. I will do what is necessary, for everyone in town knows you are a virtuous woman. 12 But while it’s true that I am one of your family redeemers, there is another man who is more closely related to you than I am. 13 Stay here tonight, and in the morning I will talk to him. If he is willing to redeem you, very well. Let him marry you. But if he is not willing, then as surely as the Lord lives, I will redeem you myself! Now lie down here until morning.”

14 So Ruth lay at Boaz’s feet until the morning, but she got up before it was light enough for people to recognize each other. For Boaz had said, “No one must know that a woman was here at the threshing floor.” 15 Then Boaz said to her, “Bring your cloak and spread it out.” He measured six scoops[a] of barley into the cloak and placed it on her back. Then he[b] returned to the town.

16 When Ruth went back to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “What happened, my daughter?”

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

18 Then Naomi said to her, “Just be patient, my daughter, until we hear what happens. The man won’t rest until he has settled things today.”

In this passage, we see that, as widows, Ruth and Naomi could only look forward to difficult times. But when Naomi heard the news about Boaz, her hope for the future was renewed. Typical of her character though, she thought first of Ruth. She encouraged Ruth to see if Boaz would take the responsibility of being the family redeemer. A family redeemer was a relative who volunteered to take responsibility for the extended family. When a woman’s husband died, the law (Deuteronomy 25:5-10) provided that she could marry a brother of her dead husband. But Naomi had no more sons. Each had already perished. In such a case, the nearest relative the deceased husband could become a family redeemer and marry the widow. The nearest relative did not have to marry the widow. If he chose to pass on marrying the widow, the next nearest relative could take his place. If no one chose to help the widow, she would probably live in desperate poverty the rest of her life. Some were even known to have had to stoop so low as to prostitution to make a living if no one would take on the responsibility for caring for the widow. In Israelite culture, as in many ancient cultures of the Middle East, inheritance of a husband did not go to his wife. It went to his sons (with the eldest son getting a double portion). In the absence of living sons, a dead husband’s inheritance went to the nearest male relative, not to the wife. The laws for gleaning and family redeemers helped take the siting out these inheritance rules.

We have a family redeemer in Jesus Christ, who, though He was God, came to earth as a man in order to save us. By His death on the cross, he redeemed us from sin and hopelessness and has thereby purchased us to be his own possession as Peter states in 1 Peter 1:18-19. This guarantees our eternal future just as the family redeemer guaranteed the earthly future of a widow.

Jesus died for us when we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). He did not require that we do certain things or have achieved certain things before He went to the cross for us. He made salvation available to us. It is up to us whether we see the need for it or not. If we want to secure our future in heaven with Jesus and the saints, we must recognize that we had a need for the cross. We must recognize that we are hopeless sinners destined for hell and eternal damnation before we can even recognize the purpose of the cross. However, our ignorance of the cross and its meaning before salvation did not stop Jesus from going ahead to the cross. He died for the sins of all us for all time. He took on the wrath of God for all sinners for all time at that moment on the cross nearly 2,000 years ago. He has already done the work. He has given it all even before you recognize that He has done. He has already made your path clear to eternal security in the bosom of God in heaven. However, you must recognize your own inability to get to heaven because of our first sin and our lifetime of sins besides that first one. The first one disqualifies us from heaven much less all the sins we commit in a lifetime. We are hopeless and eternally damned in the absence of Jesus taking the punishment for our horrid sin state. He has already provided the hand up. We must take His hand and crawl out of the pit.

The same is true for my daughter, Taylor. We have done the work to pull her out of the pit. We have made a way for her to find secure employment and a solid future. It is up to her to grab that help and climb out of the pit and make something of herself. We can’t make her want to climb out of the pit. She must recognize that she is in the pit first. She must recognize her need to secure her own future. She must want it worse than anything else. Just as we as sinners must want the hand the Jesus has extended to us from the cross. We must recognize first that we are destined to hell on our own merits. We must take the hand of Jesus and ask Him to save us. We must recognize our need for Jesus. He has already done the work. He has given us the hand up already. We must extend our hand to take his.

Amen and Amen.

Ruth 2:1-23 (Part 5 of 5)
Ruth Gleans in Boaz’s Field

We will have to go all the way back to creation. Those who do not believe in the existence of God or see Him as some remote force that is not a being with a personality and character would have us believe that the universe began for no apparent reason. They will dazzle with their understanding of how the universe operates upon universal laws that have existed since the beginning of time. The major overriding law of the universe that governs and is superior to all other laws of nature and the universe is cause and effect. In their godless universe, it all works very nicely and neatly if you want to ignore God. Everything since the beginning of time is cause and effect. Even as our world rotates around the sun here in what we, as man, call the 21st century, it is the continuing and ongoing result of the law of cause and effect. It will continue to be so until the end of the universe in this form as we know it. Sounds all nice, neat and tidy. It is a continually working law and the whole universe operates on it. It all works well until you go back to the moment the universe began.

Everything created has a moment of creation. It is not different with the physical universe within which we exist. So, the universalists would have you believe that the universe spontaneously erupted billions of years ago. Not debating the age of the universe here, but the moment of its creation. If the universe has always operated and will continue to always operate on the laws of cause and effect then what caused the universe to be created to begin with? Those who do not believe in a being with personality and character and purpose known as God would have us believe that there was this spontaneous big bang that occurred that started the whole universe. What caused this big bang? They would have you believe that it occurred spontaneously. However that would require that you suspend your belief in that overriding and evident law of the universe, the law of cause and effect. They would have you believe that it was suspended for just a moment at the most critical moment in the history of the universe, its beginning. What was the cause? To them, it was nothing. It was just a spontaneous thing. No cause, only effect.

That’s where I believe differently from those who do not believe in God. I believe science is our limited attempt to explain what God has done in the universe. This amazingly intricate and expansive universe even on this earth’s planetary is mind blowing. There has to be a being with personality, character, and intelligent will to have created the universe and it is He who created the law of cause and effect in His infinite intelligence and will that governs the universe to this day and beyond. It is then, and therefore, illogical to assume that at the moment of creation there was not a divine moment of the institution of the laws that govern the evolution, past, past and future, of the universe. A universe that happily operates on that law must have therefore had a moment of cause, the first cause, that set all this into motion. That first cause is God himself. When He spoke the universe into creation, it was the big bang. He was the cause and the universe is the effect which is now and everspinning set of actions and reactions, causes and effects, set off by the initial cause in God (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit). God started it all be speaking the universe into creation. Whether the universe is 6,000 years old or billions and billions of human years old, I do not care to debate because literally we do not know beyond a shadow of doubt how old the universe is. Scientist can make educated guesses based on sets of predisposed assumptions. Creationist who believe in the existence of God can debate with the evolutionists all day long about the time frame. But none of us really know. And we won’t know until we move to our eternal destination in heaven or hell in the eternal, non-temporal side of existence. Thus, the debate of the age of the universe is a debate that can never be definitively won.

But at that moment of creation there is a flaw in the argument of those who do not believe in God and say that there was no cause to the beginning of the universe. To them it randomly and spontaneous created itself. There is no Higher Power to them. Thus, the universe has to suspend its own laws to be created. I had rather believe that cause and effect law was operating at its best at that moment. God created the moment of creation. He is Creator. The created cannot create itself. The created must be created by a creator. In this case, the Creator is God. He set all of this intricacy that we call the universe into motion the moment that He as the infinitely wise, eternal One spoke the universe into creation, the first cause. He created the universe because as the intelligent being with character, feelings, and purpose WANTED it to be created. It was created for no other reason that God WANTED it created. The universe thus is testament to the existence of a reasoned, intelligent, willful, purposeful Creator.

It gives me great comfort to know this fact. That was the thing that struck me when I read this passage/chapter of Ruth for the fifth of five reads through this morning – how there are no coincidences in God’s kingdom. Just like there are no coincidences in how the universe was created, there are no random acts in God’s universe. That includes us as his created beings. He leads us. There are no coincidences. Let’s read through Ruth 2:1-23 once again today:

2 Now there was a wealthy and influential man in Bethlehem named Boaz, who was a relative of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech.

2 One day Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go out into the harvest fields to pick up the stalks of grain left behind by anyone who is kind enough to let me do it.”

Naomi replied, “All right, my daughter, go ahead.” 3 So Ruth went out to gather grain behind the harvesters. And as it happened, she found herself working in a field that belonged to Boaz, the relative of her father-in-law, Elimelech.

4 While she was there, Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters. “The Lord be with you!” he said.

“The Lord bless you!” the harvesters replied.

5 Then Boaz asked his foreman, “Who is that young woman over there? Who does she belong to?”

6 And the foreman replied, “She is the young woman from Moab who came back with Naomi. 7 She asked me this morning if she could gather grain behind the harvesters. She has been hard at work ever since, except for a few minutes’ rest in the shelter.”

8 Boaz went over and said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Stay right here with us when you gather grain; don’t go to any other fields. Stay right behind the young women working in my field. 9 See which part of the field they are harvesting, and then follow them. I have warned the young men not to treat you roughly. And when you are thirsty, help yourself to the water they have drawn from the well.”

10 Ruth fell at his feet and thanked him warmly. “What have I done to deserve such kindness?” she asked. “I am only a foreigner.”

11 “Yes, I know,” Boaz replied. “But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers. 12 May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.”

13 “I hope I continue to please you, sir,” she replied. “You have comforted me by speaking so kindly to me, even though I am not one of your workers.”

14 At mealtime Boaz called to her, “Come over here, and help yourself to some food. You can dip your bread in the sour wine.” So she sat with his harvesters, and Boaz gave her some roasted grain to eat. She ate all she wanted and still had some left over.

15 When Ruth went back to work again, Boaz ordered his young men, “Let her gather grain right among the sheaves without stopping her. 16 And pull out some heads of barley from the bundles and drop them on purpose for her. Let her pick them up, and don’t give her a hard time!”

17 So Ruth gathered barley there all day, and when she beat out the grain that evening, it filled an entire basket.[a] 18 She carried it back into town and showed it to her mother-in-law. Ruth also gave her the roasted grain that was left over from her meal.

19 “Where did you gather all this grain today?” Naomi asked. “Where did you work? May the Lord bless the one who helped you!”

So Ruth told her mother-in-law about the man in whose field she had worked. She said, “The man I worked with today is named Boaz.”

20 “May the Lord bless him!” Naomi told her daughter-in-law. “He is showing his kindness to us as well as to your dead husband.[b] That man is one of our closest relatives, one of our family redeemers.”

21 Then Ruth[c] said, “What’s more, Boaz even told me to come back and stay with his harvesters until the entire harvest is completed.”

22 “Good!” Naomi exclaimed. “Do as he said, my daughter. Stay with his young women right through the whole harvest. You might be harassed in other fields, but you’ll be safe with him.”

23 So Ruth worked alongside the women in Boaz’s fields and gathered grain with them until the end of the barley harvest. Then she continued working with them through the wheat harvest in early summer. And all the while she lived with her mother-in-law.

In this passage, we see that though Ruth may not have always recognized God’s guidance, He had been with her every step of the way. She went to glean and “just happened” to end up in the field owned by Boaz – who “just happened” to be a close relative. This was more than mere coincidence. As you go about your daily lives and the tasks within it, God is working in your life – in ways that you may not even notice. We must close the door on what God can do. Events do not occur by luck or coincidence. We should have faith that God is directing our lives for His purpose for our lives and for His overall glory.

The universe was not some random uncaused creation. It was purposefully done by God. He has purpose in everything even when we do not believe He exists. This world would be a random and purposeless and hopeless existence without God. To know that He has an ordered purpose for everything and that it begin with the beginning of the universe gives me great comfort and purpose to my life. Without God, this existence is entirely meaningless and all is wasted effort while we are here. We are forgotten in three to four generations. Our existence on this side of eternity is futile in the absence of God. I do not care if we have the most knowledge as man that we ever have had at this moment in time. But it is based on the collective work of man leaving it behind for the next generation to build on. However, for each individual, in the absence of God, the end of our life is the end of our existence. This is it. 70, maybe 80, years and you are done. No more existence. Gone. The knowledge you gained and imparted stays here and you are worm food. No existence. God, my God, how depressing and futile then does life seem in the eyes of someone who does not believe in God.

There is an answer. God does exist. He created the universe and ordered its workings from the beginning of time. And because we were given free will be our creator that gives us the ability to gain knowledge about our universe that He created, God took a chance that we would use it appropriately. We did not. Our world is in the mess that it is in now not because of God but because of the sinful nature of man. In order for our perfect God who is without sin to accept us to Himself with our flawed sin nature, He had to send His Son, who is of one and same essence as the Father, to take the punishment for our sins and make us imputedly clean again through this act of taking on the wrath of the perfect God against sin. All we have to do is believe that God exists, is an intelligent being who has a design and plan for everything including reconciling ourselves to Him through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross and being of the same essence as God that Jesus arose from the dead to give us hope, and a purpose and a future in Him through His resurrection. All this is meaningful. All this has purpose. This is evidence of God caring about you and as individual. Through Christ, there is an eternal existence in heaven. There was a meaning for you to have this temporal existence. There was no coincidence about it. You were put here for a reason and it was to give glory to God, the Creator of all things.

There are no coincidences in the universe He created. And there are no coincidences in your life. God has a plan. He had a plan for Ruth. He has a plan for you!

Amen and Amen.

Ruth 2:1-23 (Part 4 of 5)
Ruth Gleans in Boaz’s Field

Thank you, Naomi, for you faith in God even when our world seems to be falling down around us or things just seem to be working out the opposite of our desires. We all go through those periods of time. I have them. You probably do too.

The most recent thing for me was back in January of this year when I came this close to be offered a job as an executive pastor at a church in north central Ohio. I mean we were so close to it that we had been brought up to Wooster, OH for a weekend of interviews and being shown around town and even had a real estate agent take us around neighborhoods in the town to see where we wanted to live – all as part of the interview process. I was interviewed. Elena was interviewed. We were interviewed together. We felt good about the senior pastor. We really liked him. He seemed to get it. He was so much like my current senior pastor, Pastor Jeff, that it was not even funny. After all the phone interviews and then our discussions with Pastor Nick by himself when it was just the three of us, it gave us comfort that we were going to be at just a much larger LifeSong Church. The church was LifeSong about 10 years from now as far as size of the church and the development of the church and of the staff. It just felt right as the next step and my and Elena’s ministry as a ministry couple. However, the fatal flaw in the interview process was that they felt like the job was not going to be “a destination job” for me. They felt, from the things that I said, that I was wanting to be more than an executive or administrative pastor and that I would not stay long. They wanted a person that would want to be in that job for a long time. So…I didn’t get the job offer. We were ready to move to Ohio. We had reconciled ourselves that we would be leaving South Carolina again. But we got the news that we did not get the job. We were crushed.

Because of the lack of previous job offers and the length of time that this process had taken, I was crushed. I knew that we may never come this close for a long time. The drought would continue. I would have to go back to the drawing board and go through application processes again. I would have to fill out job applications again. I would have to give my salvation history again. I would have to have initial phone interviews again (if any of the applications got that far – most don’t). I would have to have second phone interviews again (if any of the applications that far – most don’t). l would have to have first on-site interviews again. I would have to have second on-site interviews. That is if I even got past the initial application acceptance/rejection phase which is where most of them end. I knew it was like starting over again. I knew we missed the golden opportunity to make it into full-time ministry serving the Lord daily as my full time vocation. I knew we were it would be a long time before we got this close again. I was right too! Here, we are 9 months later. I have had two or three applications that have turned into initial phone interviews but nothing beyond that.

Off and on here the last nine months since Wooster’s close call, I have at time been like Naomi wanting people to call her Mara. I was bitter. I was despondent over my circumstance. But, here, lately the Lord has been telling me to trust Him in a deeper way and that my ways are not His ways. I must trust that He is working His plan whether I can see physical evidence of it or not. He is teaching me to trust Him more deeply and more profoundly. He keeps telling me to plow the field that is front of me. It kind of reminds me of my morning walks. If I think of the whole walk of at least five miles every morning, it seems daunting. But I break down the walk into segments and within those segments I really do just focus on the cement slabs of the sidewalk that are directly in front of me, especially on the walk up the hills on my course. If I look up at how steep and long the incline is, I will inevitably slow down because of the bigness of the challenge. That’s when I just put my head and focus on the individual slabs of the sidewalk right in front of me. That’s kind of like the idea that God is drilling into my head, keep your head down and plow the field in front of you. Be faithful in the segment of the walk that you are in right now. Trust me with the rest of the steep include. Just focus on what right now in front of you. I will take care of the rest. Trust me with it. God says, “I got the rest of the hill! You just focus on this slab of sidewalk.” That’s what I see in Naomi in this passage. Even though she went through a period where she got down, God must’ve reminded her that He has got it covered. In this passage, she praises God when in the previous passage she wanted people to call her Mara because she was bitter. God must’ve reminded her that He had her covered even though it did not seem like it at the time.

That was the thing that struck me when I read this passage/chapter of Ruth for the fourth of five reads through this morning – how Naomi’s faith in God won out over her bitterness about her situation. Let’s read through Ruth 2:1-23 once again today:

2 Now there was a wealthy and influential man in Bethlehem named Boaz, who was a relative of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech.

2 One day Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go out into the harvest fields to pick up the stalks of grain left behind by anyone who is kind enough to let me do it.”

Naomi replied, “All right, my daughter, go ahead.” 3 So Ruth went out to gather grain behind the harvesters. And as it happened, she found herself working in a field that belonged to Boaz, the relative of her father-in-law, Elimelech.

4 While she was there, Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters. “The Lord be with you!” he said.

“The Lord bless you!” the harvesters replied.

5 Then Boaz asked his foreman, “Who is that young woman over there? Who does she belong to?”

6 And the foreman replied, “She is the young woman from Moab who came back with Naomi. 7 She asked me this morning if she could gather grain behind the harvesters. She has been hard at work ever since, except for a few minutes’ rest in the shelter.”

8 Boaz went over and said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Stay right here with us when you gather grain; don’t go to any other fields. Stay right behind the young women working in my field. 9 See which part of the field they are harvesting, and then follow them. I have warned the young men not to treat you roughly. And when you are thirsty, help yourself to the water they have drawn from the well.”

10 Ruth fell at his feet and thanked him warmly. “What have I done to deserve such kindness?” she asked. “I am only a foreigner.”

11 “Yes, I know,” Boaz replied. “But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers. 12 May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.”

13 “I hope I continue to please you, sir,” she replied. “You have comforted me by speaking so kindly to me, even though I am not one of your workers.”

14 At mealtime Boaz called to her, “Come over here, and help yourself to some food. You can dip your bread in the sour wine.” So she sat with his harvesters, and Boaz gave her some roasted grain to eat. She ate all she wanted and still had some left over.

15 When Ruth went back to work again, Boaz ordered his young men, “Let her gather grain right among the sheaves without stopping her. 16 And pull out some heads of barley from the bundles and drop them on purpose for her. Let her pick them up, and don’t give her a hard time!”

17 So Ruth gathered barley there all day, and when she beat out the grain that evening, it filled an entire basket.[a] 18 She carried it back into town and showed it to her mother-in-law. Ruth also gave her the roasted grain that was left over from her meal.

19 “Where did you gather all this grain today?” Naomi asked. “Where did you work? May the Lord bless the one who helped you!”

So Ruth told her mother-in-law about the man in whose field she had worked. She said, “The man I worked with today is named Boaz.”

20 “May the Lord bless him!” Naomi told her daughter-in-law. “He is showing his kindness to us as well as to your dead husband.[b] That man is one of our closest relatives, one of our family redeemers.”

21 Then Ruth[c] said, “What’s more, Boaz even told me to come back and stay with his harvesters until the entire harvest is completed.”

22 “Good!” Naomi exclaimed. “Do as he said, my daughter. Stay with his young women right through the whole harvest. You might be harassed in other fields, but you’ll be safe with him.”

23 So Ruth worked alongside the women in Boaz’s fields and gathered grain with them until the end of the barley harvest. Then she continued working with them through the wheat harvest in early summer. And all the while she lived with her mother-in-law.

In this passage, we see that Naomi had felt bitter (Ruth 1:20-21), but her faith in God was still alive, and she praised God for Boaz’s kindness to Ruth. In her sorrows, she still trusted God and acknowledged his goodness. Often, we may feel bitter about a situation, but as Christ followers, we must never get so wrapped up in our bitterness that we forgot to trust that God will pull us through the tough times. Today is always a new opportunity for experiencing God’s care. As widows, Ruth and Naomi could only look forward to difficult times, but when Naomi heard of the news about Boaz, her hope for the future was renewed. God may not seem like He cares because we want our bad situations to be gone immediately but God is working the situation always and He uses our bad situations to teach us to trust him more and mold us and ready us for the next phase of our lives where we can use our current situation as (1) evidence that God does pull us through our tough times and (2) part of our ministry to others, usually to people who are going through what we had been through in the past.

If you are in troubled times, and it seems like God has abandoned you and or left you hanging about some calling He gave you and you have gotten bitter at God, remember Naomi. She never lost faith even though she had a period of despair at her situation. Her faith was stronger than her despair. Remember me on my walks each morning. Be faithful in the cement slab that you are walking on right now. It may be a steep and long incline that you are on overall but keep your head down and focus on getting slab to slab. God has got the whole steep incline covered. He will get you up the hill and you will, after having been faithful and make the steps slab to slab will look back down the hill after you have made it to the top and say thank you Lord. Thank you Lord for seeing me to the top of the hill. Thank you Lord for the experiences of stepping slab to slab. It was hard and it was tiring and I was worried that I would give up. But you pulled me through it Lord. I can tell people that you can make it up the hill through the strength of Lord and doing our part in trusting Him. We can shout to the world that the Lord will get us to the top of the hill. The getting there is part of our ministry. The struggle of getting up the hill is part of our ministry. Be faithful. Keep plowing. Keep plugging. God will use it as part of His calling on your life. Trust that! Trust Him!

Amen and Amen.

Ruth 2:1-23 (Part 3 of 5)
Ruth Gleans in Boaz’s Field

How often do you hear it? I have done my part! I gave to United Way. I have done my part! I give my weekly $25 bucks to my church. I have done my part! I gave to the hurricane relief fund. I gave the homeless man $0.50 yesterday. We absolve ourselves of generosity by throwing a minimum of money at a situation. We complain about the poor. We complain about the crime in inner cities. We complain about gangs. We complain about it all. But, don’t raise our taxes and, boy, don’t ask me personally to do anything about it! Don’t ask me to give of my time to go into the inner city and help with the basic problem of crime and gangs – lack of education leading to lack of opportunities. Don’t ask me to put my money where my mouth is when it comes to social issues. I pay my taxes. I contribute to United Way. I give to a little bit to my church. All those things should be solving the problem. We complain about how all these problems are being solved by agencies and church organizations and we talk about how it could be done better, but don’t ask me to go do anything about it. We throw a minimum amount of money at the situations and think we have done our part.

Don’t ask me to go out of my way. Don’t ask me to get off the couch. Don’t ask me to give up my weekends. Don’t ask me to giving up my season tickets to Clemson football or the money I spend on tailgating and partying before and after the game. Don’t ask me to give up my boat. Don’t ask me to give up my Sunday afternoon on the lake. Don’t ask me to give downsize my mortgage and leave my gated community and my two story, four bedroom house. Don’t ask me to give up my big screen TV in every room. Don’t ask me to give up all my toys. I treasure these things and because I do, I can only do the minimum when it comes to generosity of my time, talents, and resources. I value all these things that entertain me and give me self-gratification that I value helping others on the outside of my property lines. I would rather have a house that is more than I can afford. I would rather have a car whose payment is just beyond what I can handle. I would rather have more clothes than I know what to do with. I would rather have more toys than I can play with in a lifetime. I would rather live off of 105% of what I make than actually care about what goes on in the world. I would rather just have my United Way deduction from my paycheck and give my extra 20-spot in my wallet to the church (when I have an extra 20-spot in my wallet when I check it at church on Sunday). Thank you. Just let my live in my cocoon of things and debt and I will do the minimum of generosity to the world around me, thank you, and I will feel good about myself, and pat myself on the back for having done so. Is this you and me?

God does not want us to checklist our way in this world. He does not want us to do the minimum and then wash our hands. He wants all of us. He wants us to be all-in when it comes to loving Him and therefore as a result loving people. He sees no heart in doing the minimum. He sees no love of Him in not being sacrificial when it comes to loving and caring for others more than ourselves. He sees us choosing to entertain ourselves with all the toys that we mortgage our paychecks away with and then we do and give as little as possible of our time, talents, and resources (when it does not interfere with the things that I think I deserve) but yet pat our back when we do just the very minimum. We volunteer at church functions and say we have made an impact on the community. We give $10 a week to our church but say we tithe. We give to the church when we have extra dollars but claim we help the church do what it does to impact the world around us. We volunteer when it does not interfere with Gamecock football or our kids baseball, basketball or football. We do the minimum. Is this you and me?

That was the thing that struck me when I read this passage/chapter of Ruth for the third of five reads through this morning – the way that Boaz went out of his way, even when he had already done the minimum expectation, to be generous to Ruth. Let’s read through Ruth 2:1-23 once again today:

2 Now there was a wealthy and influential man in Bethlehem named Boaz, who was a relative of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech.

2 One day Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go out into the harvest fields to pick up the stalks of grain left behind by anyone who is kind enough to let me do it.”

Naomi replied, “All right, my daughter, go ahead.” 3 So Ruth went out to gather grain behind the harvesters. And as it happened, she found herself working in a field that belonged to Boaz, the relative of her father-in-law, Elimelech.

4 While she was there, Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters. “The Lord be with you!” he said.

“The Lord bless you!” the harvesters replied.

5 Then Boaz asked his foreman, “Who is that young woman over there? Who does she belong to?”

6 And the foreman replied, “She is the young woman from Moab who came back with Naomi. 7 She asked me this morning if she could gather grain behind the harvesters. She has been hard at work ever since, except for a few minutes’ rest in the shelter.”

8 Boaz went over and said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Stay right here with us when you gather grain; don’t go to any other fields. Stay right behind the young women working in my field. 9 See which part of the field they are harvesting, and then follow them. I have warned the young men not to treat you roughly. And when you are thirsty, help yourself to the water they have drawn from the well.”

10 Ruth fell at his feet and thanked him warmly. “What have I done to deserve such kindness?” she asked. “I am only a foreigner.”

11 “Yes, I know,” Boaz replied. “But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers. 12 May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.”

13 “I hope I continue to please you, sir,” she replied. “You have comforted me by speaking so kindly to me, even though I am not one of your workers.”

14 At mealtime Boaz called to her, “Come over here, and help yourself to some food. You can dip your bread in the sour wine.” So she sat with his harvesters, and Boaz gave her some roasted grain to eat. She ate all she wanted and still had some left over.

15 When Ruth went back to work again, Boaz ordered his young men, “Let her gather grain right among the sheaves without stopping her. 16 And pull out some heads of barley from the bundles and drop them on purpose for her. Let her pick them up, and don’t give her a hard time!”

17 So Ruth gathered barley there all day, and when she beat out the grain that evening, it filled an entire basket.[a] 18 She carried it back into town and showed it to her mother-in-law. Ruth also gave her the roasted grain that was left over from her meal.

19 “Where did you gather all this grain today?” Naomi asked. “Where did you work? May the Lord bless the one who helped you!”

So Ruth told her mother-in-law about the man in whose field she had worked. She said, “The man I worked with today is named Boaz.”

20 “May the Lord bless him!” Naomi told her daughter-in-law. “He is showing his kindness to us as well as to your dead husband.[b] That man is one of our closest relatives, one of our family redeemers.”

21 Then Ruth[c] said, “What’s more, Boaz even told me to come back and stay with his harvesters until the entire harvest is completed.”

22 “Good!” Naomi exclaimed. “Do as he said, my daughter. Stay with his young women right through the whole harvest. You might be harassed in other fields, but you’ll be safe with him.”

23 So Ruth worked alongside the women in Boaz’s fields and gathered grain with them until the end of the barley harvest. Then she continued working with them through the wheat harvest in early summer. And all the while she lived with her mother-in-law.

In this passage, we see that the characters in this book of Ruth are classic examples of good people in action. Boaz went far beyond the intent of the gleaner’s law in demonstrating his kindness and generosity. Not only did he let Ruth glean in his field, but also he told his workers to let some of the grain fall in her path on purpose. Out of his abundance he provided for the needy. How often do we go beyond the minimum requirement or accepted patterns of providing for those less fortunate than us? Boaz demonstrates to us that generosity should be a state of mind rather some checklist item of minimum behavior.

Boaz’s behavior here reminds me of what Jesus was trying to tell us in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. He spoke of the Ten Commandments there as if they were the minimum expected behavior not some high achievement that we should pat ourselves on the back for not violating or for upholding. Jesus said although the Commandments say that we should not murder, He said that we should not let things even get that far. If we have anger toward someone, go to them and resolve it and work it out with them where you are reconciled. Reconciliation requires forgiveness. Of adultery, the Commandment say do not do it. Jesus said that is a minimum of behavior. We should not even put ourselves in such positions. We must take even our adulterous thoughts captive and submit them to the Lord. Once we have lustful thoughts and water them and nurture them, they will grow into adultery. We therefore stand condemned when we allow such thoughts to stay in our mind even before it becomes the physical act of adultery. He goes onto to discuss other points of minimum behavior required by Mosaic law, but Jesus says that we need to go beyond the minimum requirements of the law not because we are checklist keepers but because we are lovers of God. We should do more than the minimum because we love God and as a result love to please Him. So many of us do the minimum so that we can impress people on the horizontal plane but don’t really buy into what we are doing because we are not trying to please God in the vertical plane.

Should we not love God and love others enough to come out of our mortgaged, self-contained worlds where we entertain ourselves and really make a difference for the world around us. Yes, we should be concerned with social justice as Christians. We should care enough about the lowly and downtrodden in this world to make a difference in their lives both in one-on-one situations and corporately as a part of the body of Christ. We should be concerned with the lowly because they too are created in the image of God and they do deserve the dignity of being loved by a follower of Jesus Christ. We should love them as God loves and be willing to do more than the minimum. It begins with prioritization. It begins with our finances. We should order our lives financially where we live off of less than we make. We should order our lives in this way so that we don’t have to break our backs just to keep our finances afloat. There is peace that comes with that and it also allows us to be generous financially. We should also place a priority on investing our time and our talents in those things that matter eternally. Let us pray about those things that we want to see change in our world and ask God to help us figure out where we can cut out time investment in things that do not matter eternally.

Let us pray for the eyes to see and the heart to desire to do more than the minimum. To do more than say, “I give to United Way!”

 

Amen and Amen.

Ruth 2:1-23 (Part 2 of 5)
Ruth Gleans in Boaz’s Field

Our church motto is “missionaries where we live, work, and play.” The intention of the motto is to demonstrate to our people that we should be on-mission, Jesus’ mission, all the time no matter where we are or what we are doing. So often, we think of mission as being someone being sent to a foreign land to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, our church motto reminds us that our mission field is not limited to foreign lands. Acts 1:8 tells us to be Jesus’ witnesses in Jerusalem (here we live), in Samaria (in our region and nation), and to the ends of the earth (foreign lands). We are called to be missionaries just as much locally, regionally, and nationally as we are called to be missionaries in foreign lands. Each of us has a mission field in our normal everyday lives. We each have a sphere of influence that is our mission field. We each have a sphere of influence where we work. We each have a sphere of influence where we live – in our neighborhoods and in our sections of town. We each have a sphere of influence in our leisure pursuits and just normal everyday interactions with people with whom we come in contact not at work or in our neighborhood.

The motto is to encourage our LifeSong folks to be mindful that each one of us is part of the kingdom’s work each and every day no matter where we are or what we are doing. We should be “on-mission” all the time. We should consider ourselves ministers of the gospel. It’s not just the preacher’s job. Having full-time pastors in a local church is a recent development in Christendom. For most of the early centuries of the church, the job of what we call a preacher today was shared among the elders of the church and each and every member of the church was not excused from carrying the gospel just because they were not an elder. So, our church motto is one that reminds that we are a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:6) as part of God’s people. Church should not be a compartmentalized thing that we do on Sundays only or at special events at other times that require us to volunteer. We should be missionaries when nobody from church is looking. We should be missionaries when the preacher is not there to pat us on the back. We should be missionaries where we live, work, and play because we are playing for “and audience of one”, as my pastor often says. The “audience of one” is God and He is the one whom we must please and not necessarily so we can gain favor with our preacher or the people that we want to impress at church. We should be doing the work of the kingdom, spreading the gospel, because we love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and because we love others so much that we want them to have the opportunity to encounter a real person who has been saved by the grace of Jesus Christ. We want people who do not know Jesus to come to know the joy and peace that comes from salvation in Jesus Christ. We should care so much about the eternal destination of all the people we come in contact with in our spheres of influence that we are on-mission every day. We think about it. We pray about it. We act upon it. We give glory to the Lord because of it.

That’s the intent behind the motto. But at the same time, if we do not live out Christlikeness in our everyday lives, then, all of the above is meaningless. I think part of the intent of the motto is also to remind us that being a Christ follower is a full-time 24/7/365 calling. It is not some box that we pull out of the storage rack in the garage on Sunday and play with its contents for a few hours on Sunday and maybe at special events of the church here and there and maybe at some small group setting on a regular basis. Being a missionary where we live, work, and play is a reminder that we are Christ followers all the time – from the time we get up in the morning until the time we go to bed at night and even while we are sleeping. During our day, we should remind ourselves that we are Christ’s representatives here on earth. We should NOT be like the old saying about church hypocrisy of “go to church on Sunday and live like hell the rest of the week.” Not that we should try to be some paragon of virtue, we are flawed, fleshly human vessels on this side of heaven, but there should be real life change as a result of salvation. We should be through sanctification by the Holy Spirit from the inside of us out becoming gradually, gradually more and more like Christ every day. We should be different from the rest of the world because Jesus sure was. We should be so different and have such different values from the rest of this fallen world that people are drawn to us and want to know why we are so different. We should live our lives in such a way that we have good reputations and people can count on our word being our word. We should be people who value integrity and honesty. We should be people who demonstrate those qualities in everything we do. We should have demonstrable faith. We should be people who are unafraid to live out the gospel in their daily lives. We should be unafraid to share our faith with others. We should have such a reputation for being a Christian that people are drawn to us and want to know how Jesus changed our lives. We should have a reputation for being ethical people even when we don’t have to be. We should have a reputation for being a hard worker. We should have a reputation for being a person that can be counted on to go above and beyond what is required. In our neighborhoods, we should be seen as people who are uncommonly kind and who care about our neighbors. All in all, we should be on-mission not only in intentional acts of evangelism but we should let our lives reflect that we are missionaries each and every day where we live, work, and play.

That was the thing that struck me when I read this passage/chapter of Ruth for the second of five reads through this morning – how Ruth was a woman of character all the time, every day. She was an example of a missionary on-mission all the time. Let’s read through Ruth 2:1-23 for the first of five blogs today:

2 Now there was a wealthy and influential man in Bethlehem named Boaz, who was a relative of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech.

2 One day Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go out into the harvest fields to pick up the stalks of grain left behind by anyone who is kind enough to let me do it.”

Naomi replied, “All right, my daughter, go ahead.” 3 So Ruth went out to gather grain behind the harvesters. And as it happened, she found herself working in a field that belonged to Boaz, the relative of her father-in-law, Elimelech.

4 While she was there, Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters. “The Lord be with you!” he said.

“The Lord bless you!” the harvesters replied.

5 Then Boaz asked his foreman, “Who is that young woman over there? Who does she belong to?”

6 And the foreman replied, “She is the young woman from Moab who came back with Naomi. 7 She asked me this morning if she could gather grain behind the harvesters. She has been hard at work ever since, except for a few minutes’ rest in the shelter.”

8 Boaz went over and said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Stay right here with us when you gather grain; don’t go to any other fields. Stay right behind the young women working in my field. 9 See which part of the field they are harvesting, and then follow them. I have warned the young men not to treat you roughly. And when you are thirsty, help yourself to the water they have drawn from the well.”

10 Ruth fell at his feet and thanked him warmly. “What have I done to deserve such kindness?” she asked. “I am only a foreigner.”

11 “Yes, I know,” Boaz replied. “But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers. 12 May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.”

13 “I hope I continue to please you, sir,” she replied. “You have comforted me by speaking so kindly to me, even though I am not one of your workers.”

14 At mealtime Boaz called to her, “Come over here, and help yourself to some food. You can dip your bread in the sour wine.” So she sat with his harvesters, and Boaz gave her some roasted grain to eat. She ate all she wanted and still had some left over.

15 When Ruth went back to work again, Boaz ordered his young men, “Let her gather grain right among the sheaves without stopping her. 16 And pull out some heads of barley from the bundles and drop them on purpose for her. Let her pick them up, and don’t give her a hard time!”

17 So Ruth gathered barley there all day, and when she beat out the grain that evening, it filled an entire basket.[a] 18 She carried it back into town and showed it to her mother-in-law. Ruth also gave her the roasted grain that was left over from her meal.

19 “Where did you gather all this grain today?” Naomi asked. “Where did you work? May the Lord bless the one who helped you!”

So Ruth told her mother-in-law about the man in whose field she had worked. She said, “The man I worked with today is named Boaz.”

20 “May the Lord bless him!” Naomi told her daughter-in-law. “He is showing his kindness to us as well as to your dead husband.[b] That man is one of our closest relatives, one of our family redeemers.”

21 Then Ruth[c] said, “What’s more, Boaz even told me to come back and stay with his harvesters until the entire harvest is completed.”

22 “Good!” Naomi exclaimed. “Do as he said, my daughter. Stay with his young women right through the whole harvest. You might be harassed in other fields, but you’ll be safe with him.”

23 So Ruth worked alongside the women in Boaz’s fields and gathered grain with them until the end of the barley harvest. Then she continued working with them through the wheat harvest in early summer. And all the while she lived with her mother-in-law.

In this passage, we see that Ruth’s life exhibited admirable qualities. She was hardworking, loving, kind, faithful and brave. These qualities gained her a good reputation, but only because she displayed them consistently in all areas of her life. Wherever Ruth went or whatever she did, her character remained the same. Your reputation is formed by the people who watch you where you live, work, and play. A good reputation comes by consistently living out the qualities that you believe in – no matter what group of people you are around or what surroundings you are in.
So, when you wake up this morning and go to work, and then interact with people all day at work, and then you come home to your family, and when you are out in your neighborhood, and then when you go out to eat and interact with people all along the way, will there be enough evidence of you being a Christ follower for people to notice that you are a Christian. Are you a missionary to the people you work with? Are you a missionary to your family? Are you a missionary to the people you come in contact with when you are not at work and not at church? Are you a missionary all the time? Does your life reflect that you love God and love others? Does your life reflect that you are part of the kingdom of priests and the holy nation of God’s people? Does your life reflect that you are an ambassador of Christ? Are you on-mission all the time? Are you a missionary where you live, work, and play by the actions that you take and how you live your life? Am I? Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit reveals to us where we are failing Jesus in that regard.

Amen and Amen.

Ruth 2:1-23 (Part 1 of 5)
Ruth Gleans in Boaz’s Field

Back when my girls were little and I was still married to their mom and we were having financial troubles (mainly due to my first wife’s problems with addiction to narcotics, God rest her soul, then after that she became addicted to spending money left and right). During those days, I had to do something to right our ship financially (well as much I could in those days). Back in those days, I took on a paper route for six years. Rain or shine, seven days a week, the paper route called. It was dirty work with paper ink rubbing off on you and paper dust all in your car and on your clothes. When you deliver papers to 400 customers on your route, my little car at the time would be full of newspapers. And it was backbreaking work trying to drive and move the heavy bundles of newspapers from back seat to front while driving.

And, then, Sundays. Oh my God, Sundays. You would have to pick up the feature sections of those Sunday papers on Saturday afternoon and roll those papers and then place them in the car and they would fill the car up from the hatchback area, the backseat from floor to ceiling. Then, you would have to get the headline sections of the Sunday paper at the normal drop point at the normal time on early Sunday morning. Then, as you proceeded on your route, you would put the pre-rolled feature sections (that you rolled on Saturday afternoon) together with the headline sections for what would then be this behemoth newspaper. Since there is no rubber band made that will hold that behemoth together after being thrown through the air and landing on a driveway, I would have to insert the whole shebang into a rainy weather paper bag so that it would all hold together on impact with a customers driveway and so it would more easily slide into a paper tube if a customer had one of those. Weekdays were hard but Sundays were the hardest. Seven days a week. Even to just go on vacation, it had to be planned well in advance so you could get someone to run your route for you. Then, I would have go do my regular job day in and day out as well. But I did it. Day in and day out. I had to put food on the table of my family. I had to take care of them. It was ugly dirty filthy work but you do what you have to do. Even then, you have to do it with dignity and give it your best. Because your paper route customers don’t know you from Adam’s house cat and they just know you are some guy who delivers their paper. They don’t care about your backstory or your excuses. They shouldn’t have to.

Back in 2000 during the recession that occurred after the internet stock craze fizzled and the economy crashed, I had the perfect timing of losing my job where I was making pretty good money for a 38 year old. But work was hard to find during that time. I was in my second marriage at that time so I not only had my second family to support but I had my child support obligations to my own children as well. None of things stop just because you are out of work. So, with jobs in my profession hard to come by, I had to take some kind of job to keep income coming into my house. I worked for two months in the Bi-Lo Grocery Stores main warehouse in Greenville until I found a job in my profession. Talk about back breaking work. You would go into work around 5pm and work till all the orders for I think half of the Bi-Lo stores for which this warehouse was responsible were fulfilled. Sometimes that would be mean working until 12 midnight, sometimes 1am and sometimes 2am. It was the hardest physical labor that I have ever, ever done in my life. Every muscle would ache when I got off work. Riding motorized pallets around the warehouse picking items placing them on the pallet in and organized fashion so that the stuff would not fall over as you sped from one section of the warehouse to the other. When you got your order from the foreman, you would have to look it over to see what need to be stacked at the bottom, what next after than and so on to the small stuff that could be stacked on top. Then you would zip around the warehouse dodging the myriad of other order fulfillment guys zipping around. You would go from subzero temps of the freezer area to pick up meats all the way to the subtropical heat of the fruit and vegetable area of the warehouse. You would go from freezing to sweating within 10 minutes of an order fulfillment run. All of the stuff no matter where it was, was heavy. I would be so tired at the end of a shift that literally every muscle in my body would ache, including the muscles in my toes and fingers. But I did it to the best of my ability. It was not my life’s work but it was to put food on the table at home. You have to do whatever it takes sometimes. And you have to do it with excellence or at least to the best of your ability. I will admit, that job was physically overwhelming and I am sure that I was not the best at it compared to some of the more experienced younger guys that worked there, but they all liked me because I gave it my all – even though I was not some buff dude like them.

That is what gets me about some people who would rather stay at home and do nothing and expect the world to take care of them when there are jobs out there to be had. Sure, it might not be the glamorous job you want but it’s work. And I see this stretch across social status, race, economic status, you name it. There are just people who expect to have an office job where they file papers and drink coffee and each lunch on the plaza. When they can’t get that kind of job, they would rather sit at home and do nothing rather than work. There are jobs out there working in warehouses. There are jobs out there working in factories. There are jobs out there working in kitchens of fast food restaurants. There are jobs out there working in the most menial of tasks. They ain’t pretty jobs but they are jobs. There is dignity in taking care of yourself. There is honor in working any kind of job. Sometimes, we have to do what we have to do no matter what it is to keep food on our tables. I’ve done it. That’s why I appreciate the season of blessing that I find myself in now. And that is why I so ever thankful to God for it too. I am not too far removed from my past that I cannot remember the hard times and the doing whatever it took phase of my life.

That was the thing that struck me when I read this passage/chapter of Ruth for the first of five reads through this morning – how Ruth decided that sometimes in life you gotta take the initiative to change your circumstances. You cannot wait for God to place something in your lap. Sometimes, He expects us to get up and get going. Let’s read through Ruth 2:1-23 for the first of five blogs today:

2 Now there was a wealthy and influential man in Bethlehem named Boaz, who was a relative of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech.

2 One day Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go out into the harvest fields to pick up the stalks of grain left behind by anyone who is kind enough to let me do it.”

Naomi replied, “All right, my daughter, go ahead.” 3 So Ruth went out to gather grain behind the harvesters. And as it happened, she found herself working in a field that belonged to Boaz, the relative of her father-in-law, Elimelech.

4 While she was there, Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters. “The Lord be with you!” he said.

“The Lord bless you!” the harvesters replied.

5 Then Boaz asked his foreman, “Who is that young woman over there? Who does she belong to?”

6 And the foreman replied, “She is the young woman from Moab who came back with Naomi. 7 She asked me this morning if she could gather grain behind the harvesters. She has been hard at work ever since, except for a few minutes’ rest in the shelter.”

8 Boaz went over and said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Stay right here with us when you gather grain; don’t go to any other fields. Stay right behind the young women working in my field. 9 See which part of the field they are harvesting, and then follow them. I have warned the young men not to treat you roughly. And when you are thirsty, help yourself to the water they have drawn from the well.”

10 Ruth fell at his feet and thanked him warmly. “What have I done to deserve such kindness?” she asked. “I am only a foreigner.”

11 “Yes, I know,” Boaz replied. “But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers. 12 May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.”

13 “I hope I continue to please you, sir,” she replied. “You have comforted me by speaking so kindly to me, even though I am not one of your workers.”

14 At mealtime Boaz called to her, “Come over here, and help yourself to some food. You can dip your bread in the sour wine.” So she sat with his harvesters, and Boaz gave her some roasted grain to eat. She ate all she wanted and still had some left over.

15 When Ruth went back to work again, Boaz ordered his young men, “Let her gather grain right among the sheaves without stopping her. 16 And pull out some heads of barley from the bundles and drop them on purpose for her. Let her pick them up, and don’t give her a hard time!”

17 So Ruth gathered barley there all day, and when she beat out the grain that evening, it filled an entire basket.[a] 18 She carried it back into town and showed it to her mother-in-law. Ruth also gave her the roasted grain that was left over from her meal.

19 “Where did you gather all this grain today?” Naomi asked. “Where did you work? May the Lord bless the one who helped you!”

So Ruth told her mother-in-law about the man in whose field she had worked. She said, “The man I worked with today is named Boaz.”

20 “May the Lord bless him!” Naomi told her daughter-in-law. “He is showing his kindness to us as well as to your dead husband.[b] That man is one of our closest relatives, one of our family redeemers.”

21 Then Ruth[c] said, “What’s more, Boaz even told me to come back and stay with his harvesters until the entire harvest is completed.”

22 “Good!” Naomi exclaimed. “Do as he said, my daughter. Stay with his young women right through the whole harvest. You might be harassed in other fields, but you’ll be safe with him.”

23 So Ruth worked alongside the women in Boaz’s fields and gathered grain with them until the end of the barley harvest. Then she continued working with them through the wheat harvest in early summer. And all the while she lived with her mother-in-law.

In this passage, we see that Ruth made her home in a foreign land. Instead of depending on Naomi or waiting on for good fortune to happen, she took initiative. She went to work. She was not afraid of admitting her need or working hard to supply it. When Ruth went out to the fields, God provided for her. If you are waiting for God to provide, consider this: He may be waiting for you to take the first step to demonstrate just how important your need is. As well, while working, Ruth’s task was menial, tiring, and, perhaps, degrading, she performed her task faithfully. What is your attitude when the task you have been given is not up to what you consider to be your true potential? The task at hand may be what God wants you to be doing right now at this moment as a way of teaching you to be faithful in whatever you are doing. It also may be test of character before God so that He can determine if you are ready for the next phase of your life that He has in store for you.

Even if you have to flip burgers at Burger King on second shift during the busiest hours at the restaurant and its hot and its sweaty and your ankles are sore from being on your feet for four or five hours without a break, that’s what we have to do sometimes. Even if you think working at Burger King is beneath you, sometimes that’s what God places us so that He can see if we will (1) actually swallow our pride and do it, and (2) take the job on and be faithful in it regardless of how small and meaningless it seems, and (3) to see if we are ready for what He has in store next. You may take a job at Burger King and it leads you to a job in management there or it may bring you in contact with a person that sees how hard you work and offers you a job in the profession that you have been dreaming of. How often do we miss God’s ordained opportunities because we are too proud to walk down a path that seems beneath us? How often do we think we have to be the star of the show at a church activity and won’t do it because we are given a menial task that we think is beneath us. Work. Church. It doesn’t matter. God gives us tasks and we must do whatever they are to the best of our ability and to His glory. We must trust that He has a purpose in our Burger King kitchen assignments and then do them to the best we can do them. There’s honor in it. There’s giving glory to God in it. and He will reward it.

Amen and Amen.