Archive for the ‘Book of Ruth’ Category

Ruth 4:13-22
The Descendants of Boaz

An Open Letter to My Granddaughter, Ralyn,

Yesterday, I wrote about looking back at my life and being ashamed of the life I lived before I met Jesus Christ. Today, I want to write about my future. You are a big part of my future. You are only 15 ½ months old now, but time will fly and you will become a young lady long before your dad and your granddad are ready for it. I wonder what you will be interested in. What will be your hobbies? What will be your passions? Will you excel at school or will you have to work hard at it? Will you be Poppy’s little buddy? Will I be your confidant for those things that you don’t want to tell your mom and your dad? What will your reputation be as you grow up? Will you be a girl that people can count on? Will your parents be able to count on you doing the right thing? Will I have had any influence on your life at all?

Oh, you are so terribly cute right now. You slay my heart every time I see you. I love you from the depths of my soul and I have only known you a little more than a year. I hope that you and I will be as “thick as thieves” as you grow up. I hope that you will look forward to coming to Papa and Mimi’s house. I hope that you and I will play tricks on Mimi and then just laugh and laugh. I hope that you when you get tired come crawl up in Papa’s lap and snuggle up to my neck. I hope that we can go for long walks in here in The Village and talk about anything and everything. I hope that we can spend time reading books on the front porch. I hope that I can show you important things like “righty tighty, lefty loosey”. I hope that I can teach you how to cut grass. I hope that I can teach you how to trim shrubs. I hope there will be a day when I am cutting grass that you are right behind me with your toy lawnmower following Papa’s every move. I hope that I will be there at your first kindergarten thanksgiving play. I hope that I will be there for the sport that you choose to play and be there at as many games as I can. I hope that my refrigerator will be full of your art masterpieces. I hope that you will ask Papa millions of questions about everything. I hope that I will be there when you want to talk about boys. I hope that I will be there for those conversations about your first kiss. I want to be there to hear about your first school dance. I want to hear about the first boy you decide to call your boyfriend. I want to be there for you when you get your heart broken by that very same boy. I want to be there all along the way. I don’t want to be some stranger to you when you get to be a teenager. I want to still be your confidant then too. I want to hear about that boy that you are madly in love with. I want to hear about that girl who said some unsavory things about you and how you are going to handle that. I want to hear about the high school drama – and I am not talking about the drama department. Who said what to who and who was with who when he was supposed to be with this other girl. I want to help you understand a tough subject in high school. I want to help when you have a tough decision to make – to go with the crowd or do the right thing. I want to be part of your life when you are deciding on what college to go to (subliminal message—go to Clemson, go to Clemson, go to Clemson). I want to be there when you graduate high school. I want to be there when you go off to college (subliminal message—Clemson). I want to be there when you are deciding on what to major in. I want to be there for those talks about the future. I want to be there for those conversations about your career. I want to be there when a professor just introduced a concept that rocked your world and help you process that. I want to be there when you just need to get away from college for a day and we can go for one of our walks like when you were little. I want to be there when you get engaged. I want to be there when you graduate college. I want to be there when you get married.

I may not be around for much after you get married as I will probably be in my 80s by then but one thing in all this stuff is that I want you to know that you were loved so much by your Papa! I want you to know that I had your back while I was here. I want you think about your Papa and it bring a smile to your face no matter how old you get. And most of all, I want to impart a legacy to you about being a Christ follower. I want to be your example of what a true Christ follower looks like. I want to be there to influence you and talk you about sin and salvation. I want to be there when you accept Christ as your Savior. I want to be there and celebrate that. I want to be there for your post-salvation baptism where you proclaim to the world outwardly what has already happened inside your heart and soul. I want that to be my greatest legacy to have passed on Jesus Christ to you.

I Love You More Today than Yesterday,

Papa

That’s what I thought of this morning as I read through this final passage of the book of Ruth. I thought about legacy as I read through Ruth 4:13-22. What will be my legacy after I am gone? Here in this final passage, we know of the legacy of Ruth and Boaz and the role they not only played in their lifetimes but also the legacy that they passed on. Let’s think about that as we read:

13 So Boaz took Ruth into his home, and she became his wife. When he slept with her, the Lord enabled her to become pregnant, and she gave birth to a son. 14 Then the women of the town said to Naomi, “Praise the Lord, who has now provided a redeemer for your family! May this child be famous in Israel. 15 May he restore your youth and care for you in your old age. For he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves you and has been better to you than seven sons!”

16 Naomi took the baby and cuddled him to her breast. And she cared for him as if he were her own. 17 The neighbor women said, “Now at last Naomi has a son again!” And they named him Obed. He became the father of Jesse and the grandfather of David.

18 This is the genealogical record of their ancestor Perez:

Perez was the father of Hezron.
19
Hezron was the father of Ram.
Ram was the father of Amminadab.
20
Amminadab was the father of Nahshon.
Nahshon was the father of Salmon.[a]
21
Salmon was the father of Boaz.
Boaz was the father of Obed.
22
Obed was the father of Jesse.
Jesse was the father of David.

In this passage and in this book, we see that some might think of the book of Ruth as a nice story about a girl who was fortunate. However, in reality, the events recorded in Ruth were part of God’s preparation for the births of King David and of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Just as Ruth was unaware of this larger purpose in her life, we will not know the full purpose and importance of our lives until we are able to look back from the heavenly side of eternity. We must make our choices with God’s eternal values in mind. Taking moral shortcuts and living for short-range pleasures are not living life with eternity in mind. Because of Ruth’s faithful obedience, her life and legacy were significant even though she may have not been able to see the results of it in her lifetime. We must live like Ruth. We must live in faithfulness to God, knowing that the significance of your life will extend beyond your lifetime.

So, my most important remaining job in life is to be Papa to my sweet little Ralyn. This will be the most important job I have left to do. I must impart wisdom and knowledge and common sense and love and understanding and advice and most of all be an influence toward my granddaughter coming to know Jesus Christ as her Savior and Lord when she is ready for it. May that be the greatest legacy I leave behind. May that be the final important thing that I do. May that, then, be the lasting legacy. That Ralyn’s mom, my daughter, is a Christ follower, that Ralyn will be, and Ralyn’s daughter and Ralyn’s granddaughter…May that be the legacy.

Amen and Amen.

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Ruth 4:1-12
Boaz Arranges to Marry Ruth

In this day in age in which we live, if you are single and in your 30’s or 40’s, it is a great likelihood that you have been married and divorced at least once. In you are a woman in your 30’s or 40’s and you are single, you most likely have either small children, pre-teens, or teens at home with you. It is a statistical fact that mothers of children end up with custody of their children in 90% of divorces nationally. Either men don’t want the responsibility of day to day care of children, the mothers don’t trust them to do the myriad of things that are required to get children up and out the door each day, or the men don’t trust themselves. It is also a statistical fact that 27% of fathers see their children only when required by their court order or do not see them at all.

So in the American dating scene out there (not that I am familiar with it anymore myself, but these statements are made based on statistical probabilities), any time a guy meets a gal in her 30’s or 40’s (heck sometimes even in their 20s), there is a high probability that she has kids at home. Somebody’s keeping them while she is having a girl’s night with her gal pals. If you really want to get to know her, the breaking point for any such relationship is going to be about the fact that she has kids or that the kids get in the way of the relationship. There are too many guys out there that just want to have fun with the gals with kids but want none of the responsibilities or the drawbacks of dating a woman with kids in tow. With so many of these men, they are absentee fathers themselves. They feel “tied down” when they have their own kids with them. I know there are some great dads out there but there is a growing majority of dads who disappear from their own kids lives and shy away from any relationship with a woman who has kids. There are a growing number of men out there that just want to have recreational sex with women (even if the woman has kids at home) but split when there is mention of getting to know her kids. These men don’t want women with baggage. They want the fun but not the baggage that comes with most women who are “single again.” With the divorce rate out there where 50% of first marriages fail, 67% of second marriages fail, and 83% of third marriages fail, there is a great possibility of any woman a guy meets is going to have had a past and is most likely to have children at home. But like I said, there is a growing number of men who are baby daddies out there and not fathers. They want the fun of women but none of the responsibility that comes with having a relationship with a woman with kids.

There was a movie out there a while back called “Courageous” that was a faith-based film that was extremely popular even with the secular movie going public. The famous tag line from that movie was “Where are you, men of courage?” It was the story that men are often removed from their kids lives and are even less involved with their kids when it comes to faith issues. The point of the movie was to urge men to take hold of their God ordained place as being the priests of their homes, leading their family in all things but especially in leading their families in the family’s relationships with God. It takes courage to be a man of faith. It takes courage to be a real dad these days when it is so easy to wash your hands of the family your procreated. Where are you men of courage today in this broken world where practically every woman you meet has kids at home? Where are you men of courage willing to accept the baggage that comes with a woman who has kids? In this broken world we live in, it is a simple fact of life that virtually everyone who meet and potentially can have a relationship with is a person who has been married before. It’s not the world that God wants for us. He wants us to examine who we will marry before we marry them. He wants us to think long and hard before we get married the first time because He wants us to stay married to who we married the first and only time. However, in this sin-filled broken world, we will most like be married at least twice in a lifetime. That’s a sad fact but a true one. So, given that, we must be willing to accept the baggage of the person that we are attempting to have a relationship with and potentially marrying any time after the first marriage is done. Men especially must be willing to accept what a single mom is bringing to the table of the relationship.

That’s the thing that came to mind this morning as I read through Ruth 4:1-12 – the difference between Boaz and the unnamed man who was closer in line to be the redeemer of Naomi and Ruth. The unnamed man wanted the property but not the women who came with it. Let’s read through the passage here right now and then we will finish our discussion after that:

4 Boaz went to the town gate and took a seat there. Just then the family redeemer he had mentioned came by, so Boaz called out to him, “Come over here and sit down, friend. I want to talk to you.” So they sat down together. 2 Then Boaz called ten leaders from the town and asked them to sit as witnesses. 3 And Boaz said to the family redeemer, “You know Naomi, who came back from Moab. She is selling the land that belonged to our relative Elimelech. 4 I thought I should speak to you about it so that you can redeem it if you wish. If you want the land, then buy it here in the presence of these witnesses. But if you don’t want it, let me know right away, because I am next in line to redeem it after you.”

The man replied, “All right, I’ll redeem it.”

5 Then Boaz told him, “Of course, your purchase of the land from Naomi also requires that you marry Ruth, the Moabite widow. That way she can have children who will carry on her husband’s name and keep the land in the family.”

6 “Then I can’t redeem it,” the family redeemer replied, “because this might endanger my own estate. You redeem the land; I cannot do it.”

7 Now in those days it was the custom in Israel for anyone transferring a right of purchase to remove his sandal and hand it to the other party. This publicly validated the transaction. 8 So the other family redeemer drew off his sandal as he said to Boaz, “You buy the land.”

9 Then Boaz said to the elders and to the crowd standing around, “You are witnesses that today I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion, and Mahlon. 10 And with the land I have acquired Ruth, the Moabite widow of Mahlon, to be my wife. This way she can have a son to carry on the family name of her dead husband and to inherit the family property here in his hometown. You are all witnesses today.”

11 Then the elders and all the people standing in the gate replied, “We are witnesses! May the Lord make this woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, from whom all the nation of Israel descended! May you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. 12 And may the Lord give you descendants by this young woman who will be like those of our ancestor Perez, the son of Tamar and Judah.”

In this passage, we see that Boaz cleverly presented his case to the relative. First, he brought in new information not yet mentioned in the story – Elimelech. Naomi’s deceased husband, still had some property in the area that was now for sale. As the nearest relative, this unnamed man had the first right to buy the property (Leviticus 25:25). But then Boaz said that according to the law, if the relative bought the land, he also had to marry the widow, Ruth (because Mahlon, Ruth’s deceased husband and Elimelech’s son, had inherited the property). At this stipulation, the relative backed down. He did not want to add a complication to his own inheritance to his existing children because of the new children he would have had with Ruth. That was the most likely reason, but he could have just not wanted to complicate his life with another woman. Whatever his reason for backing away, it cleared the way for Boaz to marry Ruth himself.

That’s the thing that made me think of today’s messed up dating world out there is because in this story, the unnamed relative wanted the property but not the baggage that came with it – Ruth. He wanted the additional wealth that came with owning more land but he did not want the responsibility of another wife and raising more kids and complicating his financial situation. That so reminded me of how men out there today just want women for recreational fun but they don’t want the baggage that often comes with women in today’s world of divorce. They want the fun but not the responsibility. That’s why men are often divorced anyway is that they could not face up to the lifetime of responsibility that is marriage – kids, mortgages, schooling, kids activities, and no time for themselves.

What if God was like that with us? What if He did not want all our baggage? Our sins condemn us in His sight. He could just throw us away into the pit of hell and walk away and be right in doing so. He could just say I don’t need this and that be it! However, God has greater love for us than that. Even though our first sin condemns us to hell and not to mention the lifetimes of sins that we commit, He could say that you have too much baggage for me to deal with and cast us into hell. But He doesn’t. Boaz represents God’s love for us. Boaz did not care about all the baggage that came with Ruth. He simply loved her. He knew that she had a past and had been married before and knew that she was not originally from the people of Israel. He knew all the baggage she brought to the relationship. But he loved her anyway. He was willing to marry her when the unnamed relative was not. He was willing to set aside all the things that would make Ruth undesirable for marriage and took her in marriage anyway. God is the same with us. He loves us so much that He sent His Son to earth to become the perfect sacrificial lamb to take on God’s punishment for our baggage, our sins. In that way, through Jesus, He can set aside the punishment we deserve. He can set aside our sins because Jesus paid the price for them. Through Jesus, we are made clean before God. We are made into marriage material before the bridegroom. We are made new and desirable again to God. We are redeemed by a God who loves us despite our past sins, despite our past baggage. When we accept Christ as our Savior and Lord, we no longer carry around the baggage of our sins that condemns us in the sight of God. Through Jesus, we are made into a beautiful bride ready for the bridegroom. We are made into something beautiful and desirable by God. He loves us that much. He loves us enough to redeem us when we have all this sin baggage. He sets it aside, through Jesus, and welcomes us into His house and makes us His bride with all the rights and privileges that go along with being a child of God.

Amen and Amen.

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

Sometimes in our lives when we look back on the person that we were before we came to know Jesus Christ as our Savior, we go “wow, how could I have been that kind of person!” How could I have been that kind of person and think that it was OK to be that kind of person. I grew up in the church. I heard the gospel. I knew the Bible stories, in general. My dad was a preacher. So, it wasn’t like I was a person who did not grow up knowing right from wrong, moral from immoral, and so on. But growing up in a parsonage does not guarantee that you will be immediately a follower of Jesus Christ. Don’t get me wrong, I was not necessarily a bad kid or bad seed. I was just a regular kid. I did well in school. Rarely got in trouble. I was just one of those kids that was a good student but wasn’t a nerd. I was a kid who danced on the edge of getting in trouble with parents and teachers on occasion. My trouble in life was always feeling less than. My trouble was always feeling like an outsider. My trouble was always feeling like the guy who got to the party but just went the party was about over. Never felt like I was in the know.

It was these feelings of being an outsider, a step behind, late to the party, catching a trend just when everyone has moved on to the next trend that kind of defined my pre-salvation days. I was always trying to fit in. I was an approval seeker. I wanted validation that I belong and that I matter to other people. It is still something I struggle with even after salvation but not like in my pre-salvation days. In those pre-salvation days, I would do whatever it took to win approval of others to the point of committing sins that grieve my own soul now. My moral compass fell off the table and broke into pieces over the years. And my word became worthless as I shucked and jived so as to keep all the people happy in my life from who I desired approval. My finances were a shambles from all of that too. So my word meant nothing when it came to financial matters and certainly my creditors probably felt my word meant nothing. My self-image of myself as a decent, moral person was far different from my daily practices of situational ethics. Then, there comes a day when you look at yourself in the mirror and say who have you become. There was a time when people thought you were a good kid and respected you for being a young man of your word. Now, look at you. You would lie to save your ass in a minute. You would lie to get out of trouble. You would lie to make yourself seem more important than you are. Looking in the mirror, who is this man? I don’t know him anymore. He acts as though there is no judgment because he lives according to his own gospel which is not the canonical Gospel of Mark. The ends justified the means for this guy looking in the mirror.

When I look back at the man I had become in the months and weeks before I accepted Christ as my Savior, I didn’t think of myself as a desperate sinner in need of a Savior. I thought I had become something that I didn’t wanna be but I thought I was still good enough to get in heaven if God made a few exceptions for me. I thought I was good enough to get in if God look at my good deeds vs. my bad ones. I figured that being a martyr in my divorce, trying to keep two families happy (my exwife and my daughters on one hand, and my second wife and her boys on the other) and feeling like a martyr in that, working hard, etc. All that would make up for my moral failures and my situational ethics. It was not until that play that night at Abundant Life Church in December 2001 where my life was lived out in a play right before my eyes on the stage at church. The central character thought the same kind of mindset. It wasn’t until he spent 30 minutes in hell during that one hour play that he realized that his sins no matter how small are enough to sentence him to eternity there. No matter the good deeds we do to make up for our bad ones, our sins prevent us from living with our Father in heaven in eternity. That was the final mirror in my face. The Holy Spirit broke my soul that night. Since then, it has been a long and winding road and a difficult job for the Holy Spirit to sanctify me and He still has a ton of work to do.

However, one thing that is important to me now is my word. I want to keep my word even if costs me something. I want to do what the Bible says is right no matter if it costs me something or not. I desire to please God in this way. I want to be a person who honors his commitments. I want to be a person who is known to tell the truth. I want to be a person that is known to have integrity. I want to a person that will give the cashier at the Wal-Mart the money back when she mistakenly gives me too much change. I want to be a person who does not try to return goods that I broke and pass it off as defective goods. I want to be a person of honor. In many ways, I am getting better at that each day because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in my soul. I look back at the man I was before salvation and I am disgusted at him. In the process of being sanctified by the Holy Spirit, when I look back even in the years after salvation, I am disgusted by the man I was a the day of my salvation. I am disgusted by the man I was 10 years ago and even 5 years ago. I know too that as I progress deeper in my walk with Christ that the man that I am right now will disgust me in 10 years. As we grow in Christ, the Holy Spirit wins battles with the sins and habits and thoughts that we think are OK right now. Over time, though, the Holy Spirit shines the light of God on those things in our lives that are not holy. It takes a lifetime for the Holy Spirit to do this and He does not have his final victory over our ego-driven selfishness until we arrive in heaven and join our Savior there. As a Christ follower, sometimes we really do need to sit down and think about the person we used to be compared to now and marvel at the work, the tireless work, of the Holy Spirit in our lives? Are you not disgusted by the person you used to be before Christ, about the person you were just after salvation, and the person you were just a few short years ago? It’s funny how we think we are at the apex of our spiritual maturity until the Holy Spirit shines the light on something that we thought was acceptable all along til then.

Let us always remember who we used to be before Jesus Christ. Let us remember who we are now and where we will be in just a few short years down the right. We are a work in progress under the construction of the master remodeler, the Holy Spirit.

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 Boaz and Naomi had reputations as being trustworthy and upright people to the point that people took them at their word (when they said something you could trust it like gold in the bank). Let’s read the passage together for the last time this morning, Ruth 3:1-18, before we move on:
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 a foreigner, Ruth may have thought that Naomi’s advice was odd. However, Ruth followed the advice because she knew Naomi was kind, trustworthy, and filled with integrity. Each of us knows a parent, an older friend, or relative who is always looking out for our best interests. Be willing to listen to the advice of a person who is older and wiser than you are. The experience and knowledge of such a person can be invaluable. And then there was Boaz. Naomi knew that Boaz would follow through on his promise at once. He obviously had a reputation for keeping his word and would not rest until his task was completed. Such reliable people stand out in any age and/or culture. Do others regard you as one who will do what you say? Keeping your word and following through on assignments should be high on anyone’s priority list. Building a reputation of trustworthiness takes many years but losing your reputation can take just minutes.

I want to be like Naomi and Boaz. I want people to be able to trust what I say. I want to be a person who says what he means and means what he says. If I make a promise to you, you should be able to bank on that promise. I want to be that guy who is seen as one who has integrity. I want most of all to be an honorable representative of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. I want the person that I am on Sunday morning to be the same person who, when given the opportunity to do something unethical, will do what is right even if it costs my success or advancement according to earthly treasures. I want to be a guy like Boaz where it is known that I will not rest until I have kept my promise. I want to be a person like Naomi where, even if you think my advice is strange or odd, you will follow it anyway because you consider me a completely trustworthy source. I want to continually look back at my life and see growth in Christlikeness. I want to be a big kid Christian someday. I want to be like Christ. I also want to remember what that man in the mirror looked like in the months before salvation back in 2001. I never want to be that man again. I want to be God’s man. Again, as I said just a second ago, it is my desire more than anything else to be an honorable, trustworthy, reputable, representative ambassador of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I don’t ever, never, never, never, never, ever want to go back to being the man that stared in the mirror in 2001 and had that meltdown moment of horror at the person that I had become. Thank God for my salvation. Thank God for the joy that I have found there. Thank God for the Holy Spirit and His kicking my butt around these last 16 years. Thank God!

 

Amen and Amen.

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.

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.