Archive for the ‘08-Ruth’ Category

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.

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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.

Ruth 1:6-22 (Part 2 of 2)
Naomi and Ruth Return

Sometimes, we get all wrapped in what we don’t have we can’t see what we do have, even as Christ followers. Even in football, we can complain and think our favorite football team is going down the drain. Clemson, for example, played its last game on Friday a week ago, on Friday the 13th. The game was not on a Saturday because of the demands of television to have a few Friday night football games during the season. Clemson came into the game against Syracuse as the 2nd ranked team in the nation. They had defeated 3 top fifteen teams during the month of September and had disposed of its three unranked opponents pretty handily. The defense was among the best in the nation and given up an average of less than 11 points a game. They had been a ferocious defense so far this year. The offense had been consistently good and even had shown flashes of excellence at times. The offense was not as consistent as the defense but they were still good enough to average about 34 points a game.

However, on this particular Friday night, both the offense and defense turned in their worst performances of the season, and against a team that was unranked. The offense was horrid from start to finish, even though they produced a few good plays to score 17 points, but it was apparent to all that our starting quarterback, who had injured his ankle the week before in the game against Wake Forest, was not his normal, mobile self. He was noticeably hobbling as he played. Part of the key to the Clemson offense this year is the fact that Kelly Bryant is a quick and mobile quarterback. With a hurt ankle, he could not do any of the things that he normally does. He was so limited in his motion that he ended up getting hurt again, knocked unconscious, by trying to run on a bad ankle and getting hammered by a quicker defender. The coaches should have seen this but they didn’t and try to call a game as if he was fully healthy. It didn’t work. Then, after the concussion to Bryant, they brought in a backup who was not ready to play it seemed and the offense looked horrid the rest of the night. Also, the defense usually the thing that covered up for any shortcomings of our offense, played without passion and rarely made the Syracuse QB feel unsettled. He defensive backs were constantly out of position and got burned several times, although one DB returned a fumble for a touchdown. Then, there were the penalties on a defense that is usually well-prepared and plays with great discipline. On special teams, our kicker missed two easy field goals. It was just a horrid night. The coaches just did not have the team ready on either side of the ball. The players, too, took Syracuse too lightly. The result, a 27-24 loss to an unranked team and a big blow to the Tigers’ national championship dreams. If they win out the remainder of their games, they will most likely be in the playoffs but they lost any margin for error with the loss to Syracuse. They must win out or they will miss the playoff and have to settle for a nice bowl game.

With the loss though, there has been a lot of negativity among Clemson fans, including myself, as to the state of our football program. With the dysfunctional performance, many are wondering if that is the real Clemson and that the past two years of making the national championship game was because of the once-in-a-generation talent of DeShaun Watson, a coach on the field, who had the ability to command the team and make the coaches look good. There was and is a lot of negative things being said by Clemson fans much less anyone else. You would think that we were Tennessee or something. However, the bottom line is that DeShaun was a great talent, yes, but he’d be the first to tell you that we have great coaches and that he was not the only person on the field. Bottom line is that Clemson is still ranked #7 in the country even after the loss. Bottom line, Clemson can still make the playoffs. Bottom line, Clemson is still 6-1 and how many teams can say that after 7 games. Bottom line Clemson is the only second to Alabama in total victories over the past 6 ½ seasons. Sure, this team is not as good as last year’s national championship team but the sky is not falling. The team will recover from this loss and even if we do not make the playoffs this year, we will most like win at least 10 games for the 7th year in a row – again only Alabama can say more. And next year, this team will be national championship caliber once again because our coaches are such good recruiters and game managers and will be bringing probably the best recruiting class in the nation this coming year.

I know the ladies who read my blog may be yawning with a football illustration, but I think it is appropriate this morning. When we read of Naomi’s return to Bethlehem, she starts telling everyone to call her by the name of Mara, which means bitter, instead of Naomi, which means pleasant. She was letting the immediate aftermath of recent events taint her view of life not to dissimilar to how many of us Clemson fans have reacted to the loss by the Tigers on Friday the 13th. Let’s read the passage, Ruth 1:6-22, now and then we will discuss it some more:

6 Then Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had blessed his people in Judah by giving them good crops again. So Naomi and her daughters-in-law got ready to leave Moab to return to her homeland. 7 With her two daughters-in-law she set out from the place where she had been living, and they took the road that would lead them back to Judah.

8 But on the way, Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back to your mothers’ homes. And may the Lord reward you for your kindness to your husbands and to me. 9 May the Lord bless you with the security of another marriage.” Then she kissed them good-bye, and they all broke down and wept.

10 “No,” they said. “We want to go with you to your people.”

11 But Naomi replied, “Why should you go on with me? Can I still give birth to other sons who could grow up to be your husbands? 12 No, my daughters, return to your parents’ homes, for I am too old to marry again. And even if it were possible, and I were to get married tonight and bear sons, then what? 13 Would you wait for them to grow up and refuse to marry someone else? No, of course not, my daughters! Things are far more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord himself has raised his fist against me.”

14 And again they wept together, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye. But Ruth clung tightly to Naomi. 15 “Look,” Naomi said to her, “your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. You should do the same.”

16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. 17 Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!” 18 When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she said nothing more.

19 So the two of them continued on their journey. When they came to Bethlehem, the entire town was excited by their arrival. “Is it really Naomi?” the women asked.

20 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she responded. “Instead, call me Mara,[a] for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. 21 I went away full, but the Lord has brought me home empty. Why call me Naomi when the Lord has caused me to suffer[b] and the Almighty has sent such tragedy upon me?”

22 So Naomi returned from Moab, accompanied by her daughter-in-law Ruth, the young Moabite woman. They arrived in Bethlehem in late spring, at the beginning of the barley harvest.

In this passage, we see that Naomi had experienced severe hardships. She had left Israel married and secure. She returned widowed and poor. Naomi changed her name from Naomi (meaning “pleasant”) to Mara (meaning “bitter”) to express the bitterness and pain that she felt. Naomi was not rejecting God by openly expressing her pain. However, it seems that she lost sight of the tremendous resources that she had in her relationship with Ruth and with God. When you face bitter times, God welcomes your honest prayers, but be careful not to overlook the love, strength, and resources that he provides in your present relationships and in the true blessings that are present in your life.

Certainly, Clemson fans have much to be thankful for even though they lost to Syracuse 10 days ago. Many other programs around the country would kill to be able to complain about being 6-1 this season and having a record 34-3 over the last 2 ½ seasons, having won at least 10 games over the past 6 seasons. And it’s not like the program is headed downhill. They just lost a game. It happens. Let’s not lose sight of that as fans of this team and program. That’s the very same thing that Naomi should see here as well. She has much even though she doesn’t have much to show for it at the moment. She has a husband who blessed her. Two sons who blessed her. She had two loving daughters-in-law and she even had a daughter-in-law that gave up her entire life history and family just to go and be with Naomi. She had a daughter-in-law that was completely loyal to her and would do anything for her. She still had many blessings. She still had a God who had a plan for her that she needed to trust.

How often do we as Christ followers want to get bitter about what we don’t have or what God hasn’t done for us? Sometimes, we act as though God has never done anything for us by the way we act in a current bad situation. I think of David, who would often lament about very real, bad situations but he would always conclude his lament Psalms with glorifying God and His sovereignty over David’s life. David never forgot about the history of provision that God had over his life. Often, though, we as non-giants of the faith like David, we tend to forget the blessings that we do have because God has not given us the desires of our heart, or we find ourselves in a really bad situation. We blame God for ignoring our cries. We see only what is in front of us and not God’s history of taking care of us. We need a change of heart. We need to see how God has always provided for us in the past and trust that He will now and in the future. We can let current situations blind us to the wonderful blessing that we have simply in our salvation. We let temporary setbacks make us bitter toward God instead of realizing and trusting that He has a divine plan working, working, working in the background of our lives. Let us trust the Sovereignty of God even in the worst of situations. Sure, we can question God’s plan. We have that right in our free will and God can handle our questions and our doubts. But remember always the joy of our salvation is the greatest thing of all. Remember that it was our loving God who cares for us so deeply that He gave us His Son to be the payment for our sin penalty. Remember that God is almighty and sovereign. Remember to trust in the Creator of all things. Remember to trust that He has a plan. Remember that He works all things together for our good. It may not seem like it right now. It may seem like He doesn’t care. It may seems like the world is crashing down around you, but He is there. Remember that we have so much to be thankful for in Jesus Christ even in the worst of times.

Amen and Amen.

Ruth 1:6-22 (Part 1 of 2)
Naomi and Ruth Return

“Wherever you go, I go. Wherever you live, I live. Your people will be my people. And your God will be my God” (Ruth 1:16). This verse is one of the most famous quotes in the Bible. It is often repeated as an example of love, loyalty and fidelity. It is sometimes used by brides in wedding ceremonies to express their love for, trust in, and loyalty to the bridegroom. Ruth’s expression of her desire to remain with Naomi here begins, though, with Naomi’s concern for the future of her young daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah.

Ruth showed great concern for their future to the point of asking them to stay behind in Moab. Both Ruth and Orpah were Moabite women. They would have more family available to them than Naomi could offer them. Heck, Naomi was not even sure that her husband’s relatives back in Israel were even still alive. She was just going back to Israel on a hunch, a gut feeling (inspired by the Holy Spirit, maybe) that life would be better back at home. She had no proof to offer these girls that life would be better in Israel. So, in thinking of the girls best interests, she told them to stay. Ruth and Orpah most likely would have had family that could have taken them back. Most assuredly, there were men of adult age in their home communities that would have married them. They would have been able to have their future assured through family, a husband, a home, and definitely children. In the ancient Middle East, that would be the ideal dream of a woman.

Naomi knew that in the absence of these young, vibrant, healthy girls that her situation would be even more desperate than it already was. As she was an aging woman, it would be difficult for her to easily gather food and harder to find work even as a servant. With the girls in her life, they would be able to assist her in making a life for the three of them. However, she thought more about the future of her daughters-in-law than her own. She could not guarantee these young ladies anything. She knew that the probability that their life would be better in Moab was much higher than it was for them in what was really and unknown back in Israel. Her selflessness, her concern for the future of her daughters in law inspired Ruth.

Ruth knew the odds. But Ruth’s love and loyalty toward her mother-in-law outweighed her thoughts about her odds for survival. Ruth must’ve really loved Naomi to risk it all to plow off into the unknown with her mother-in-law. She was willing to give up the sure thing in Moab to venture off into the unknown with her mother-in-law.

Let’s read the passage, Ruth 1:6-22, now and then we will discuss it some more:

6 Then Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had blessed his people in Judah by giving them good crops again. So Naomi and her daughters-in-law got ready to leave Moab to return to her homeland. 7 With her two daughters-in-law she set out from the place where she had been living, and they took the road that would lead them back to Judah.

8 But on the way, Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back to your mothers’ homes. And may the Lord reward you for your kindness to your husbands and to me. 9 May the Lord bless you with the security of another marriage.” Then she kissed them good-bye, and they all broke down and wept.

10 “No,” they said. “We want to go with you to your people.”

11 But Naomi replied, “Why should you go on with me? Can I still give birth to other sons who could grow up to be your husbands? 12 No, my daughters, return to your parents’ homes, for I am too old to marry again. And even if it were possible, and I were to get married tonight and bear sons, then what? 13 Would you wait for them to grow up and refuse to marry someone else? No, of course not, my daughters! Things are far more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord himself has raised his fist against me.”

14 And again they wept together, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye. But Ruth clung tightly to Naomi. 15 “Look,” Naomi said to her, “your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. You should do the same.”

16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. 17 Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!” 18 When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she said nothing more.

19 So the two of them continued on their journey. When they came to Bethlehem, the entire town was excited by their arrival. “Is it really Naomi?” the women asked.

20 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she responded. “Instead, call me Mara,[a] for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. 21 I went away full, but the Lord has brought me home empty. Why call me Naomi when the Lord has caused me to suffer[b] and the Almighty has sent such tragedy upon me?”

22 So Naomi returned from Moab, accompanied by her daughter-in-law Ruth, the young Moabite woman. They arrived in Bethlehem in late spring, at the beginning of the barley harvest.

In this passage, we learn of the desperate state that widows often found themselves. In the ancient Middle East, there was almost nothing worse than being a widow. Widows would be taken advantage of or ignored. They were almost always poverty stricken. God’s law, therefore, provided that the nearest relative of the dead husband should care for the widow. But Naomi had no relatives in Moab, and she didn’t know for sure that any of her husband’s male relatives were alive in Israel. Even in her desperate situation, Naomi had a selfless attitude. Although she had decided to return to Israel, she encouraged Ruth and Orpah to stay in Moab and start their lives over – even though it would mean further hardship for Naomi. Like Naomi we must consider the needs of others and not just our own. As Naomi discovered, when we act selflessly, others are encouraged to follow our example.

When we look at Naomi’s concern and Ruth’s response, we are reminded of following God’s call on our lives. For example, with me, the sure thing is to stay in my current career that has been very, very good to me and my family. Right now, I am at the height of my earning potential and I make pretty good money. I am not some wall street wizard or some brilliant entrepreneur but I am a pretty darn good accountant and as a result, even though my company is a small division of a large multinational company, I am the chief financial officer of my business unit. Combined all that with my children being grown, paying off most all my debts over the past decade, my wife and I are financially set. We have been able to put away savings, make nest eggs through investment, and by living frugally we have been able to be generous people. What more could you ask for? It is a life of security and blessing right now, after years of hardship.

However, God has called us to full-time ministry and we wait for Him to open that door in his divine timing and providence. We do not know what that will hold and what that will look like. It is unknown. It is a gamble compared to the life that we lead right now. However, we are willing to go where He calls us to go when the time comes. We are saying to God, like Ruth to Naomi, I know that we have no clue what we are getting into and we know that our life now is a certainty and it is secure, but wherever you call we will go. We will go where you lead. We will follow. We are not any great people for doing or saying that. I bet Ruth would say, I was just doing the right thing instead of allowing people to say she was one of the greatest women of the Bible. That’s what Elena and I say. We are just following. Nothing special. Nothing to be patted on the back about. Just following. Just listening for God’s call. Just doing the right thing. Sometimes, God calls us into the unknown, to the big black blob of the unknown. Sometimes, He calls us to risk it all and be faithful to Him.

Are you ready? Am I ready?

Amen and Amen.

 

Ruth 1:1-5

Elimelech Moves His Family to Moab

Recently, this past week, I had someone make a comment on a blog that I had written about two and a half years ago, yeah, that’s right. Two and a half years ago. So, the dude really must’ve been examining my blog space to find a blog from two years ago to take issue with me. This blog from two years ago was about the wonders of the grace offered us through Jesus Christ. I used myself as an example of the wonders of grace and how grace is superior to legalism. In that blog, I noted that according to Scripture that divorce is a sin. The only reason that God gave Moses rules about divorce was to regulate the way that it was handled. Since God’s people were stiff-necked sorts, God wanted to ensure that women were treated properly in this distasteful and sinful marriage breaker. Under the law, divorce is sin. Plain and simple. It is validated by Jesus himself. In Luke 16:16-18, Jesus says,

 

 

 

16 “Until John the Baptist, the law of Moses and the messages of the prophets were your guides. But now the Good News of the Kingdom of God is preached, and everyone is eager to get in.[a] 17 But that doesn’t mean that the law has lost its force. It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the smallest point of God’s law to be overturned.

 

 

 

18 “For example, a man who divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery. And anyone who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”

 

 

 

Under the law, I stand condemned as does my wife of the past 7 ½ years, Elena. We both have been married twice before. However, both of our previous marriages (two for her and two for me) each began prior to each of accepting Christ as our Savior and Lord. That does not make divorce any less sinful, but it does go to our motivations for marriage. It does go to the fact that we did not have Christ at the center of our lives at the times that we were choosing our spouses during those years. We were not Christ followers during those years. I did not come to Christ as my Savior until near the end of my second marriage (which crumbled under the weight of her adultery, my mistakes with money, and the death of her oldest son). Elena came to know Christ as her Savior about six months before we got married (as we sat in the small group meeting at our pastor’s house when we lived in California). Under the law, we both stand condemned. Under the law, we are sinners because of our divorces even though the marriages began when we were rebels against God and we chose poorly as to who we should be married to. Under the law, we are condemned as should have no access to God or to worship in the temple. We should be excluded from the people of God because of just this one sin much less a lifetime of other sins committed. According to my commenter at my blog, my mention of how God can redeem a second or third marriage is giving him the thought that he could steal money from a bank, beg for forgiveness from God, and then say that because he begged for forgiveness that it validates the stolen money as OK to spend. I think this fellow missed the whole point of the blog which was that God is in the redeeming business. Elena and I did not steal anyone’s spouse when we met. We were already divorced when we began dating but that does not minimize the sin of divorce for us. We are condemned by this sin alone and, like I said, not mention that we have mountains of sin that convict us as well. On our own merits, we stand convicted before God for the sins that we have committed. We do deserve a sentence to hell on the merits of our divorces alone. We can’t pretty that up or make that right or go back and change. According to the law, yes, we should be excluded from the pleasures of God’s righteousness. We should be excluded from heaven. We should have no claim to enter the gates of heaven on just this one sin alone. Just this one sin. What are we to do? How can we fix this? How can two sinners who have these sordid, sinful pasts that we cannot undo before the Lord before we met one another. How do we reconcile our sinful past to the purity required before God?

 

 

 

Grace is the answer. It is through Jesus sacrifice on the cross for all sins of all time that we can now approach the throne of God. Jesus paid the price and the penalty for our sins, past, present and future. I get the commenter on my blog is afraid that people abuse grace. I get that. But you have to ask the question that if a person claims grace over his apparent and unrepentant practice of sin, then, you may have to question their salvation to begin with. However, those that are truly saved have the Holy Spirit come to dwell in us and changes us from the inside out. Through the Holy Spirit’s working in my soul, I know that my past divorces are sin and it is because of just the divorce sins alone that I stand convicted by God and condemned to hell on my own merits. In the absence of the Holy Spirit, I would see that my divorces were OK and find reasons to justify them just to make myself look good. It is through the Holy Spirit that I am convicted of that sin and it pushes and prods me to make this marriage my last no matter what comes at it. I will no longer duck and run when our marriage hits a rough space. I will work on it and get through it. It is through the grace of Jesus Christ on the cross that I stand pure before God and the everyday working of the Holy Spirit that we become more and more like Christ every day. So, just as Peter stood convicted before Jesus for something he could not go back and change, Jesus asked this obvious sinner to feed His sheep. Jesus redeemed Him. Jesus made him useful to the kingdom. Jesus does the same for us through the cross. We can have our marriages that are sinful in the sight of God be made clean and holy through repentance and through grace. That is what makes for the joy of salvation and sanctification. We made free from the penalty of our past. We are given new life. We are made children of God. He can make the foulest clean!

 

 

 

What does this have to do with the passage at hand today? It has everything to do with it. Let’s read Ruth 1:1-5 together now and then I will explain:

 

 

 

1 In the days when the judges ruled in Israel, a severe famine came upon the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah left his home and went to live in the country of Moab, taking his wife and two sons with him. 2 The man’s name was Elimelech, and his wife was Naomi. Their two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in the land of Judah. And when they reached Moab, they settled there.

 

 

 

3 Then Elimelech died, and Naomi was left with her two sons. 4 The two sons married Moabite women. One married a woman named Orpah, and the other a woman named Ruth. But about ten years later, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion died. This left Naomi alone, without her two sons or her husband.

 

 

 

In this passage, we see that Moab was the land east of the Dead Sea. Moabites, who were related to Israel through Lot (Gen. 19:37), occupied parts of central Transjordan at various times. It was one of the nations that oppressed Israel during the period of the judges (see Judges 3:12 and following verses), so there were tensions between the two nations. The famine must have been quite severe in Israel for Elimelech to move his family there. It is a demonstration of how sometimes we compromise our beliefs to get what we want or think we need.

 

 

 

Marrying a Canaanite or anyone who previously occupied the Promised Land was against God’s law. Moabites were not allowed to worship at the Tabernacle because had not allowed the Israelites pass through their land. If an Israelite married a Moabite woman, they would have been prevented themselves, even though they were Israelite, from worshiping at the Tabernacle because of their marriage. Sometimes, when we are in desperate circumstances we compromise our beliefs and that is what we see here. Desperate times had come but as God’s chosen people, these Israelites, even in the land of Moab, should have set the standard for moral living for other nations. However, they mixed in with the culture and even married into it. How often do we compromise our values to just fit in with the culture around us? How many times have you and I stood quiet when people were Christ bashing and we should have stood up and said something? How many times do we commit sins that we try to justify later as being OK? How many times do we ignore God’s Word because we are in desperate circumstances? How often do we do an end around on God’s Word because that’s the easiest way from Point A to Point B. All of us stand convicted on this point. We have all sinned and grieved the Spirit of God. We have all made mistakes that somewhere down the road the Holy Spirit makes us want to throw up over the kind of person that we used to be.

 

 

 

Here in this passage we see that something bad happened that was against God’s law for the people of ancient Israel – to marry outside God’s chosen people, to marry into cultures that did not worship God. And, that is something that Elimelech’s sons did. They marry the wrong kind of person according the law. They clearly did this. There was no hiding it or justifying it. They compromised because of conditions. They went against God’s own law because of their situation. Bottom line, they stand convicted. Bottom line, they broke the law. However, because of the redemptive nature of God’s love and because Naomi and Ruth had such great faith, they were eventually redeemed from the horrid life that they were going to have to live. Because of their faith, they were rewarded. Because of their faith, the bad situation that began with a sin of marriage to the wrong crowd, God actually redeemed it. God made Ruth, who was from the wrong side of the tracks…I mean….wrong side of the Dead Sea, into one of the great women of the Bible. God made Ruth into part of the lineage of King David. She was his great grandmother. She also became part of the earthly lineage of our Savior and our Lord, Jesus Christ. She became part of God’s family and the line through which Jesus’ earthly family came. Her marriage was born in sin but it was redeemed. She would not have come to know God had it not been for this apparent mistake or sin of marrying outside the people of Israel. God used this mistake of the past because of the faithful obedience of Ruth after she came to know God and turned it into something beautiful.

 

 

 

No matter where you are at right now in life. Murderer. Idolater. Adulterer. You name it. God can redeem it and make it part of His plan. Your past you can do nothing to change. All you must do is admit before God that you are a sinner and believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross as punishment for your sins that you personally deserve. And proclaim with your mouth that He is indeed the rightful one to do this because He is the Son of God and that as the Son of God He arose from the dead to give you victory over sin and death and you will be saved. You will be redeemed. Your sins are forgiven through your repentance and revulsion over your past sins. Your sins are forgiven through the grace that covers them at the cross. You are now redeemed. You are now made new. Through the Holy Spirit, you will come to repent and be grieved over each and every sin you commit from now on and you will be changed from the inside out by Him. Through the Holy Spirit, you can see how we really do deserve hell in the absence of Jesus Christ. Through the Holy Spirit process of sanctification, we are made useful to the kingdom. Through the grace of Jesus Christ, we see joy of our salvation as we stand at the precipice of what was our eternal damnation in the fires of hell. Through Jesus Christ, we are pulled back from the brink. Through Jesus Christ, we are made clean. By God’s grace, we are made into a part of the kingdom of priests. By God’s grace, we are made part of those who are useful to God in bringing about His kingdom here on earth.

 

 

 

Yes, I am a sinner. Yes, thank God, I am redeemed. Yes, thank God, he has made my marriage clean. Yes, thank God, He has made two mistake-makers into a couple that is useful to His kingdom. No cheap grace here. Changed lives here. Joy here at what God has redeemed, made clean, and made part of the fabric of His redemptive plan. Joy here at God taking filthy rags and clothing them in the embroidered cloak of grace.

 

 

 

Amen and Amen.

 

The Book of Ruth: An Introduction (Part 4 of 4)
As we close out the introductory points about the Book of Ruth, we find that it teaches about God’s redemptive plan for man. As widows, Ruth and Naomi could only look forward to difficult times. Boaz took 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 (Deut. 25:5-10) provided that she could marry a brother of her dead husband. However, Naomi had no more sons. In such a case, the nearest relative of the deceased husband could become a family redeemer and marry the widow. The nearest relative did not have to marry the widow. If you chose not to, the next nearest relative could take his place. In no one chose to help the widow, she would probably live in poverty the rest of her life as, in Israelite and most ancient Middle Eastern cultures, inheritance was passed on to a son or nearest male relative not to the wife. The laws for gleaning and family redeemers helped take the sting out of these inheritance rules.

That Boaz went to all the trouble he did to redeem Ruth and take her as his bride is symbolic of what Jesus Christ did for us. He did not have to do what He did for us. He could have easily stayed in heaven and just allowed us to be judged and it would have been just and right for Him to do so. However, Jesus set aside His glory and came down to earth to redeem us from our poverty caused by our desperate state of sin. As John 3:16 famously states, “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” In the absence of Boaz’s redemption, Ruth would have faced a bleak future and may have had to resort to sinful behaviors such as prostitution to simply survive. It would have been a hellish existence. That is no less what Jesus does for us. He redeems us from our prostitution to sin. He redeems us from the penalty of sin. He redeems us from our bleak existence. He cleans us up. He took the penalty of our sin through his taking His Father’s wrath against sin on the cross. His blood shed on the cross is what makes us pure again in the sight of God as Jesus took the punishment for our sin instead of us having to do that ourselves. Therefore, we are made pure in the sight of God when we realize that Jesus died for our sins, that we were destined for hell in the absence of his sacrifice on our behalf, and that Jesus was the only one who could do that for us. He was the only one who could redeem us because He is God in the flesh and He was without sin. When we realize that He was God in the flesh and that He arose from the dead as victory over our sin and death, we are made His bride and we are presented to God as unblemished and spotless. We gain our right to new life through Him.

Boaz similarly redeems Ruth who was destined for hopelessness just as we are destined for the hopelessness of hell without intervention from Jesus. Boaz gave Ruth new life as His bride. Boaz gives her access to all his riches through his redemption act. Boaz gives her access to a new life that she would not have had otherwise. He did so willingly because of his love for Ruth. He gave her a new lease on life through His love for her. Jesus loves us that much too. He willingly made the trip to the cross for us because of His desire that we not spend eternity separated from God in hell. We are locked into a life destined for eternal misery without His redemptive love just as Ruth was destined for an earthly life of desperate poverty in the absence of Boaz’s redemptive love. Be sure that it was not lost on Ruth exactly what Boaz did for her. She knew what he was saving her from – a life of horrible poverty that could have led her to do things that poverty will cause a woman to do. She knew that Boaz’s love for her saved her from a horrid life. Jesus does the same thing for us. His love for us saves us from a life locked in the results and consequences of sin and has us sentenced to hell. Ruth most likely celebrated her husband in Boaz and was thankful every day for what He had done for her. As redeemed Christ followers, we should be thankful every day for Jesus, our bridegroom, has done for us. He has redeemed us from hell. He has redeemed us from our sin. He has redeemed us from our old life. He has redeemed us from our old sin self and has placed us in our spotless bride’s dress, all white and pure before God. He gives us a new life from the inside out. We should never forget and always celebrate the redemption by our bridegroom in Jesus Christ. As Christ followers, we should be the most joyous people on the planet. We know the eternal life that we were destined for and by all rights deserved. We know that hell is real and it is not a pretty place. We know that it is a place of eternal torment and anguish. We know that it is what we deserve for our sins as our just punishment before a sinless, pure and righteous God. That Jesus would redeem us from our deserved destiny should be a source of constant joy and contentment. No matter what we face on this side of eternity, it pales in comparison to the eternity of hell. No matter how bad our life gets, we know that Jesus has given us the keys to the eternal glory of heaven with God. Why then are we often the most morose people on the planet. We have joy unspeakable through Jesus Christ. We must celebrate it everyday. We must let it permeate our being every day. We must ooze out joy from the overflow in our soul. We must tell people the source of our inexplicable joy! We have been redeemed by Jesus Christ!

Boaz also made provision for her even before he married her through allowing her to glean the grain just as Jesus provides for us even before we come to salvation in Him. His death on the cross two millenia ago is the once and final sacrifice for all sin for all time. All we have to do is glean the grain. Jesus does not have to repeatedly be crucified. His act was the once and for all completion of the Old Testament sacrificial system for sin. Since Jesus was complete perfection and lived the perfect, sinless life there is no need for repeated sacrifices. There is no need for Jesus to do it over and over again. It was the ultimate one-and-done. He leaves the grain at the edge of the field. He leaves the grain on the threshing floor. All we have to do is pick it up and take the food that is necessary for our eternal salvation. It is there for the taking. All we must do is believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and proclaim it with our mouth that He died for our sins and that He arose from the dead to give us hope eternal. The grain has been left there for us to pick up and eat. It is up to us to reach for it.

The Book of Ruth is such a beautiful book and a real life example of what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross. So, let’s meet here at my next blog as we dive into the Book of Ruth.

Amen and Amen.