Ruth 2:1-23 (Part 4) – Sometimes, We Just Gotta Go from One Slab of the Sidewalk to the Next Slab…

Posted: October 27, 2017 in 08-Ruth
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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.

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