When God Comes Through for You
Ruth 2:19-23Not all days are equal.When the Allies began their invasion of France in World War II, they chose to attack on June 6, 1944. We call it D-Day to commemorate what those young men did when they landed on the beaches of Normandy in the face of withering gunfire. It’s not that June 5 or June 7 were unimportant to the war effort. But those days matter because of what happened on D-Day.Sometimes one day stands out above the others. We remember birthdays, anniversaries, graduation days, and all the other “red-letter days.” For Naomi and Ruth, this is the Day of Days. Something is about to happen that will change life forever for these two widows.
It was a red letter day for Ruth and NaomiSo far, Ruth has experienced extreme kindness from a man named Boaz. She knows who he is, but she doesn’t know why he matters. Ruth doesn’t know about his connection to Naomi, and Naomi doesn’t know about his kindness to Ruth. All we know so far is that Ruth “happened” to glean in the field of Boaz, who went out of his way to honor and protect her. She recognizes the hand of God in how he treated her, but beyond that, she cannot yet see the big picture.These closing verses of Ruth 2 tell us how these two widows--one old and one young--respond to God’s astonishing grace. Ruth returns home tired but glad, carrying an armful of fresh grain — enough to feed the two women for many days.How should you react when God comes through for you?What do you do when your prayers are answered?How do we respond to God’s extreme kindness to us?We do what Naomi and Ruth did. We celebrate!
Celebrate God’s Goodness
Her mother-in-law said to her, “Where did you gather barley today, and where did you work? May the Lord bless the man who noticed you” (v. 19a).At this moment, Naomi has no idea who owns the field that produced the bounty of food Ruth has brought home. Even so, she offers a prayer of blessing for this man without knowing who he is. With this prayer, she moves from bitterness to blessing. Already God’s grace has started to heal her hurting heart.
Naomi has moved from bitterness to blessingHow blessed are they who see God’s hand in the mundane. You will never lack a reason to celebrate God’s goodness when your heart is tuned to see him at work in your life. In one poor home in Bethlehem there is great rejoicing, but in another home Boaz sleeps well because God has given him rest. He is more blessed than he knows because Naomi and Ruth have prayed for him.
Celebrate God’s Grace
Ruth told her mother-in-law whom she had worked with and said, “The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz.”Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May the Lord bless him because he has not abandoned his kindness to the living or the dead.” Naomi continued, “The man is a close relative. He is one of our family redeemers” (vv. 19b-20).The word “kindness” comes from a Hebrew word used over 200 times in the Old Testament. It’s a difficult word to translate because it encompasses love, kindness, loyalty, grace and mercy. Naomi (who not so long ago wanted to be called “bitter”) sees the invisible hand of God at work in leading Ruth to the field of Boaz. It reminds me of that famous line from the movie Casablanca: “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.” I think Naomi would say, “Of all the fields in all the towns in all the world, Ruth walked into the field of Boaz.” That's what it felt like to her.After all Naomi has suffered and lost, after all those hard years in Moab, after the long journey back home with Ruth by her side, after leaving full and coming back empty, after all of that, she finally realizes the Lord has not forgotten them.
We will never come to the end of God's graceThe Old Testament law allowed a close relative to step in and “redeem” a family member under certain circumstances (Leviticus 25:25-28). It allowed the redeemer to buy back a family member sold into slavery or to purchase land sold under hardship. In extreme situations, it allowed the redeemer to avenge the blood of a family member who had been killed. Deuteronomy 25:5-10 allowed a man to marry his dead brother’s former wife (if the brother died childless). That way the man could raise up children for his deceased brother and keep the family name alive.But there is a kicker to this story. The law of the “kinsmen redeemer” was never meant to apply to foreigners. It was “family law” given by God to guide the Jews in times of family crisis. A Jewish man would marry a Jewish woman to help his deceased Jewish brother. The law was never meant to apply to a marriage between a Jewish man and a Moabite woman.At this moment in the story, Naomi has no idea how Boaz will respond to the offer to redeem the land and marry Ruth. It was, to say the least, highly irregular. But that is still in the future. All we know at this point is that Ruth “happened” to meet Boaz, who is the right man in the right place at the right time. That morning when Ruth woke up, she had no idea what was about to happen.But God!God has raised up a redeemer because God did what only God could do.
Celebrate God’s GuidanceOur passage ends with three signs of God’s guidance. Out of the mass of details that happened on this fateful day, we can trace God’s fingerprints in the seemingly random events of life.
God guided Ruth to a place of peace.
Ruth the Moabitess said, “He also told me, ‘Stay with my young men until they have finished all of my harvest’” (v. 21).Note what she is called: “Ruth the Moabitess.” But we already know she is from Moab. Why mention it again? Because we need to remember what foreigners always know: “You’re not from around here.” Not a day passed in the village of Bethlehem without someone remarking on her background. If her dress didn’t give her away, then her speech certainly did. Every day she was reminded she wasn’t Jewish, which meant she was outside the covenant and was therefore a stranger to the promises of God. She didn’t belong, she didn’t fit, and it wouldn’t be unusual if some folks thought it would be better if she went back to her own people. You can call it racism if you like, or give it a fancy name like ethnocentrism, or just say a girl from Moab could never find a home in Bethlehem.That would be true, except for a man named Boaz. He has revealed himself to be a man of character and compassion. Besides that, he is a man of means, and no doubt came from one of the aristocratic families. If Boaz decided to take care of Ruth, no one would dare to speak against her. They might gossip behind closed doors (people are people, after all), but no one would bother her while she was under his protection.
God made a way for us when there was no way!Iain Campbell points out that the same law that forbids her to join the people of God (Deuteronomy 23) also opened a door of grace for her (Deuteronomy 24). The first law said she could not come in; the second law said she could not be kept out because it provided for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. Ruth qualified on all three counts!She was a stranger.She was fatherless.She was a widow.God always intended to make a way for Moabites to join the people of God. That’s the gospel in action even before Christ came. We need this because in God’s eyes, we are all Moabites. No one has any claim on God’s grace. By nature, we are all sinners under God’s judgment. The flaming sword that kept Adam and Eve out of Eden keeps us out too. We have no way back to paradise unless God makes a way for us. And that’s what he did when he sent his Son to die for us. He made a way when there was no way. That’s the good news of the gospel of Christ.
God guided Ruth to a place of protection.
So Naomi said to her daughter-in-law Ruth, “My daughter, it is good for you to work with his female servants, so that nothing will happen to you in another field” (v. 22).In any other field, young men might accost Ruth, seeking to take advantage of her because she was a young widow from another country. By staying in the field of Boaz, Ruth would be protected. And Boaz would be able to keep an eye on her.Thus does God’s plan protect a young woman while keeping her in the view of the one man who could change her life.
God guided Ruth to a place of provision.
Ruth stayed close to Boaz’s female servants and gathered grain until the barley and the wheat harvests were finished. And she lived with her mother-in-law (v. 23).The barley harvest began in April, and the wheat harvest ended in June. This meant Ruth would be working in the fields along with the other women for at least seven weeks. Note that she stayed “close” to the other women during those long days in the field. That speaks to her loyalty and to her common sense. And it certainly says something about her commitment. She wasn’t afraid of hard work.But above all, working the harvest meant she and Naomi would not go hungry. God has provided a home and food for this young widow from Moab. She is safe and secure in Bethlehem--the “house of bread.” Here again we see the gospel at work. When Ruth was in the fields of Moab, she reaped nothing but sadness and death. She buried her husband in the fields of Moab because the wages of sin is death. But in the fields of Boaz, there is abundant provision. There is enough and more than enough. When Jesus fed the 5000, after everyone had eaten all they wanted, the disciples collected twelve baskets filled with leftover fish and bread (John 6:12-13). So it is with our Lord. He provides so much that we can never run out. There is grace for today, grace for tomorrow, and plenty of grace for next week, next month, and next year. That means you’ll never meet a sinner Jesus won’t save. He has grace for the most hopeless among us. Who is the worst sinner on earth? I have no idea, but whoever it is, there is plenty of grace for that man or that woman, and plenty left over for everyone else.If the story ended here, it would be remarkable enough, but there is much more to come.Some people think Ruth and Boaz have fallen deeply in love by this point in the story. Maybe so, but the text doesn’t say that. The emphasis is not on their inner emotional state. Boaz had noticed Ruth and knew all about her noble character, and Ruth had experienced undeserved kindness from Boaz.But that’s all we know so far.
The Lord is the real hero of this storyThe real hero of this story is the Lord who worked behind the scenes to bring it all to pass. He orchestrated every detail, including the famine that caused Naomi and Elimelech and their two sons to go to Moab in the first place. He arranged for Ruth to “happen” upon the field of Boaz. He caused Boaz to look upon her with compassion. He ensured she had plenty of grain to share with Naomi. If we step back even further, we can see that he arranged for Boaz to be a relative of Elimelech and thus qualified to redeem the land for Naomi.Here’s a final fact to consider. In the book of Ruth, we hear from everyone except the main character. Naomi speaks, Ruth speaks, and Boaz speaks. God never utters a word, yet he is the Prime Mover behind the scenes. Every detail points to the Sovereign Lord of the universe. He leaves his fingerprints hiding in plain sight. The writer wants us to see God at work in the ordinary details of life.Blessed are they who see the Lord everywhere! If God is with us, then we are never alone, and we are never truly on our own. When God is involved, there are no “ordinary” days because every day matters to him. That means you never had an ordinary day, and you never will. Alva J. McClain put it this way: “From the fall of a raindrop to the fall of an empire, all is under the providential control of God.”
The God Sighting GameSometimes we need to be reminded that God is to be seen not just in the big events, but also in the tiny details. I remember one day when I came home from church in a grouchy mood because things had not gone right. It had been a day of frustration—endless meetings, long phone calls, unplanned interruptions, and hours spent dealing with contrary people. When Marlene asked me how my day had gone, I unloaded my litany of woe. When I finished, she expressed sympathy and said she was sorry I had had a bad day. But it didn’t seem to me that she had fully grasped the depths of my frustration, so I started to complain all over again. When she decided she had heard enough, she said what wives have said to complaining husbands since the beginning of time: “Grow up.” I didn’t like that at all. For one thing, I didn’t want to grow up. I wanted to complain. “Don’t you even believe what you preach?” Ouch! That was hitting below the belt—throwing my sermons back at me. But she was right, of course. “Stop complaining. Open your eyes and see how good God has been to us.”
Look for God's fingerprintsThen she said, “Let’s play the God Sighting game.” I told her I didn’t want to play that game. I wanted to complain some more. Grumbling all the way, I agreed to play the God Sighting game. It’s very simple to do. You just look around and see where you can find God’s fingerprints in your life. Very soon I saw him in small things. A phone call from a friend. The sun peeking through the clouds. A kind email. A friend who dropped by. A note from one of our boys with good news. A hymn that brought us joy.When I started paying attention, I started seeing God everywhere. Sometimes it was just a small little thing God would do, just something that caused me to say, “That was the Lord!” But my experience was not unusual. If you keep your eyes open for God, soon you’ll see him everywhere. Often we focus on the spectacular answers to prayer. God says, “That’s not always where you’re going to see me. Look for my fingerprints in the small things and listen for the whisper of my voice.” I found myself praying, “Lord, open the eyes of my heart that I might see you everywhere.” And you know what? It enabled me to see God at work in places where I had never seen him before.It is a great advance spiritually to see God at work all the time, in every situation, no matter whether we are happy or sad. If we live long enough, we will see it all. We will betray and be betrayed, we will laugh and we will cry, we will sing for joy and we will weep bitter tears. Friends will amaze us, and then they will frustrate us. We will win great victories and suffer humiliating defeats. God has ordained that our journey through life is not a straight line. If you try to graph your own life, your line will end up going in all directions. It will be two steps forward, three steps back, four steps down, two to the side, six up, seven back, and sometimes life will seem to take you in circles. We can’t escape the changing nature of life, but we can change how we look at it. Surely that’s a major point of Ruth’s story.Not all days are alike. If someone had told Ruth early in the morning what was about to happen, she would not have believed it. She got up and went to the field, hoping to gather some barley to help keep her and Naomi alive. She didn’t know what was about to happen. But God did, and he used her obedience to open a new chapter in her life. He will do the same for you and me.
God did what God does!Because God is good, he cares for us.Because God is gracious, he gives us what we don’t deserve.Because God is our guide, he leads us even when we don’t realize it.This passage began with Ruth bringing home the grain Boaz gave her. If you had asked, “Does God care for you?” she would have said, while staggering under the heavy load, “What do you think? Look at all this grain.”
Two Happy WidowsIn every detail of this story, God is at work. He caused Ruth to “happen” upon the field of Boaz. He stirred up Boaz to notice Ruth and then to shower her with kindness. He saw Naomi’s misery and turned it into joy.That’s God.That’s what he does.That’s how he works.No wonder these two widows celebrated. They had seen the “goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13). This story is far from over. But as the sun goes down over the “day of days,” two widows in Bethlehem celebrate God’s goodness to them.As I was finishing this message, I ran across this quote from Jarvis James: “If you have a pulse, you ought to have a praise.” He’s right. Are you breathing? Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Is your heart beating? Then let it beat in praise to the Lord who has not forgotten you.
If you have a pulse, you ought to have a praise.Someone reading this story is struggling because you feel God has forgotten you. Perhaps you feel bitter because others have mistreated you. Maybe your sin has put you in a very bad place. If so, remember this. God has not stopped showing kindness to you. He wants your heart, and he will do whatever it takes to draw you to him. He calls you by his grace, and he whispers through your pain, “My child, I have not forgotten you.” How will you respond? What will you say to the Lord’s invitation? He’s knocking at the door of your heart. Lay aside your doubt and be done with your fears. Go to the door, open it, and say, “Lord Jesus, you are welcome to come in.” Come to Jesus, my friend. Do not delay. Don’t say, “I would rather be miserable.” Why walk in darkness when you can come to Christ and walk in the light of day?Meanwhile, back in Bethlehem, this story is far from over. Stay tuned. Naomi is about to come up with a shocking plan to get Ruth and Boaz together for life. You won’t believe what happens next.
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Topics in this messageCurrent sermon series:
Unexpected Grace (Ruth)
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