How to Change
I’m gonna invite you to turn to Ruth 2. When our service concludes today, we’re going to spend some time praying for those that are going on the trip to India. They leave tomorrow morning, so if you want to pray for them throughout the days ahead as they’ll be gone for 10 days, I think, out of country. If you want to pray for them on this trip, it’d be a good opportunity to do that this coming week especially.
If you would like to donate, today is the last day to donate towards the ministry that’s taking place in India. As a church, we’ve been behind a handful of ministries in India. We help educate kids and Islams, a part of a leper colony and caring for their needs as well, and an orphanage run by an individual, whoever sees all this, but the orphanage is full of young ladies rescued out of slavery, sex trafficking, just difficult environments. All of them, they’re ministering to them mentally, physically, and spiritually helping take care of their needs. If you’d like to donate towards the cause, the place to do it this morning as you leave the last box as you exit out, an offering box on the wall. There are these envelopes inside of it that say love on it, one love, and you could put anything in there, and whatever’s donated today goes directly to that ministry.
We’re sending over $12,000 to the ministry in India. $6,000 goes to lepers in some schools and $6,000 for the orphanage. Our goal was to try to raise 12,000 for the orphanage because the girls there need a new kitchen, but if you feel led just to give, you want to contribute to that before the team leaves, that is the place to do it.
With all that said, I think today’s message relates well to the ministry that’s taking place in India as well as just ministry in general. Now, we’re going to talk about being a godly influence that transforms life around you, really, when you have nothing as far as monetary or worldly goods to offer, how God can allow you to do that. We’re gonna do that through the Book of Ruth 2.
I just want to say one of the things I appreciate about this book is in the scope of world events, the story of Ruth is not one that would necessarily rank high on a historical timeline. When you think, map out even just the Bible’s historical timeline, talk about some big events, Ruth’s not one you’re like, “Oh, we gotta put this one down.”
It’s a story that’s sort of wedged in the middle of the history of Judges where a lot of not good things happened. The Bible tells at the end of Judges 21:25, “Everyone does what’s right in their own eyes.” What it’s saying is every individual sees themselves as God and they wake up that day and whatever they feel like doing, that’s what determines what they do. Their only authority in life is themselves.
In that story, the small quiet story of Ruth is told. It really remains that way. You really wouldn’t have known about it unless the Bible highlights it. But in the faithfulness of this lady whose life is bankrupt as she experiences the death of her husband, her father-in-law, leaves her homeland, becomes a foreigner, and just steps out in faith. In the middle of that story, God does some incredible things. Her influence, when she has nothing in possessions as far as the worldly standards are concerned, becomes very powerful in not only her life and the lives around us, but also in the future.
When you look at the story of Ruth, if you’re just joining us for the first time, as the narrative begins to be told, this is a narrative story, it starts on the backdrop of a man named Elimelech. Elimelech has two sons named Mahlon and Chilion, and they live in Bethlehem. The story wants us to know that because everyone of those names has a certain identity it wants us to relate to in the context of that story.
Bethlehem means house of bread, yet they’re leaving Bethlehem in a time of famine. Elimelech is leaving the place of God with the people of God, and he’s pursuing a place contrary to where God has told him to go. When he gets there, they experience sickness and death, which happens to be the name of his two kids, Mahlon and Chilion, sickness and death.
Apart from God, with all the promises of the world, they step out into life to try to find food and sustenance for their family, and what they ultimately find is death. Elimelech dies, his two sons die, Naomi is left a widow with her daughter-in-laws, Orpah and Ruth. Orpah goes back to her own people. Ruth decides to step out in faith with Naomi to return to the Promise Land.
While they left to go to this land of Moab with all the promises of the world, they end up bankrupt. In the bankruptcy they go back to the Promised Land in God, and they find that their faith in God is secure and the Lord supplies for them. In the midst of this step of faith in which Ruth takes in herself, remember as we’ve looked at this story, Chapter 2:9, 2:15-16, 2:22, it shows us that while Ruth is a Moabite, she becomes a foreigner in Israel, and she takes incredible risks in her steps of faith. What she knows is that she wants a relationship with God, and what she’s seen is that Israel’s been brought into this Promised Land and that God is with them. She wants to go back into this land to experience that relationship with God that she’s seen made known in Israel.
She takes a step of faith at incredible risk because the Moabites and the Israelites did not get along. In verse 9, verse 15 and 16, verse 22 of Chapter 2 tells us that. Naomi tells Ruth that your life’s at risk, in verse 22, “If you don’t stay under the protection of Boaz,” Boaz has to tell his people, verse 9 and verse 15 and 16, don’t be mean to Ruth, don’t harm Ruth, don’t say bad things about Ruth, let Ruth have a drink of water if she’s thirsty. She becomes sort of this front man for an entire society that’s treated with disdain from the Israelites, and with good reason. If you study the history of Israel, the Moabites were the ones that rejected them and gave them a difficult time when they were trying to journey into the Promised Land that God gave them. But relationships are tense, and Ruth will receive the brunt end of that. Yet, Ruth is a woman that continues to walk in faith, and she influences in her godliness the people around them. It just says something about her character.
One of the things that just reminds us of her life is that true leaders and true difference makers do not need an official position to influence. Ruth had nothing. She had no place of prominence and power, yet the mark of her life is of incredible influence for godliness in the society around her. What we’re gonna see in the story, we’re gonna look at three single individuals, Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz. We’re gonna see how they continue to point to one another and the character that they display that influences people around them.
In this story, really what the story is really doing, if I’m being honest, Ruth 2 is that it’s telling you a love story. It’s gonna tell us Ruth and Naomi get married, have a kid, comes from the lineage of David, which ultimately is from Jesus. That’s what it wants us to know. On the backdrop of this marriage, it’s showing us why these two were such a wonderful couple to come together and the godliness they possessed in their own individuality and how that was expressed in the life around them.
There’s a lot to do with marriage. As a tailor to this, we’ll talk about how to recognize if someone is a good person to marry or not, or if the marriage will work out based on the character of the individual. In all of it, what we want to see together is, at looking at Ruth’s life and Boaz’s life, how can we be a godly influence that sees transformation, not only in our lives, but in the lives of those around us?
It starts with Boaz pointing out the character of Ruth. Verse 11, Chapter 2. “Boaz replied to Ruth, All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother in the land of your birth and came to a people that you did not previously know.”
Boaz is looking at the content of Ruth’s character and saying, “In your society, Ruth, it would have been easier once your husband died to go back to your people where they would care for you. But I’ve seen what you’ve done. You’ve taken risk in faith, and you’ve stepped out to help care for your mother-in-law in which you were not obligated to do.” Boaz is pointing out the actions of Ruth that are both admirable and influential, at least in his life.
Ruth, by worldly standards, was bankrupt. Yet, in that position, she still found a place to serve and, therefore, have influence. To make a difference in life, you don’t have to have a position of power, but a willingness to take a place of service. It would have been easy for Ruth to make excuses. She could have said to Naomi in the midst of the story, “I have nothing, and therefore I can do nothing.” And then the story stops. But Ruth understood that in her position, she still had a place to influence because she was willing to serve, that she didn’t necessarily have to have a position of power, but a position of service. She steps out and makes a difference in that.
I think for us, the encouragement becomes this. If you wanna be a difference maker, you don’t have to look at what you don’t have, but take a step of faith in what you do have. I feel like in doing ministry in Utah for the last, I don’t know, however many years I’ve lived here, that has sort of been my anthem. Everything that we’ve done here as a church family, as books on planting churches will tell you, that we’ve done it wrong. Planting a church with no money to plant a church is typically not a good idea for planting a church, because it takes resources to do this. Yet our church was started in our living room and just kinda moved and got us supplied and then to the point that we now have a bar of which we’re a part of.
Sometimes it’s a very scary thing. There are many times I have lost sleep over some of the decision we’ve made, like when you sign your name to a deed on a building like this, and you realize it’s gonna take over a year with renovation with the volunteers that we’ve got to get it done. There’s risk to that. But God has been good.
Sometimes it’s difficult even in ministry. For me, I get opportunity to travel around a lot to different churches throughout the nation and speak. Some of the times when I go to those churches, it’s hard not to be envious. A lot of them have been in existence a lot longer and so financially they’re a little bit better off. They’ve gotten past the struggles where we have, and they have a lot more people on staff. Do you know in America today, the average church our size typically has about three full-time people paid to minister for the church? Do you know that we’re doing it with not one? I’m not even full-time. It’s not about what you don’t have. It’s about what you do have.
You know the beautiful part of that for me is I get to be honest and say, guys, we’ve got a lot of people and I’m one person, but we also have a lot of gifted people within our church, a lot of people that love Jesus, that lead for Jesus, and wanna care for people in Jesus. Honestly, that’s what the Bible calls us to do. We don’t hire out what Jesus wants us to do to professionals. We understand that God wants to do something great through you and in you.
Rather than complain about what we don’t have, we need to look at what we do have. We have people that love Jesus, people that wanna be an influence in this world for Christ and care for every soul that comes through our front door. I would rather have that than money and just staff. At the end of the day, if we get to meet Jesus face to face and we say, “We were a church that just took what we had and were just faithful to Christ,” that’s a beautiful story to write.
That’s Ruth. That’s Ruth’s story. It’s not about a position of power. Someone doesn’t have to come to you and grant you a position for you to be effective for Christ. You take a place of service, and in serving you begin to influence. That’s where Ruth was. She was bankrupt. She could have looked at Naomi and said, “I have nothing, therefore I can do nothing.” But she saw the opportunity that she had to be a difference maker in the life of Ruth because she had a willingness to serve.
Can I even say, in our society, if you look over the course of our history, some of the people that we would admire in history, some of the most powerful influences in our society didn’t first receive high position and, therefore, became great influencers. They were great influencers that then went on to receive higher positions.
I think of names that we just throw out for admiration, people like Mother Teresa. How many of you knew what she looked like when she was younger before she got all the wrinkles? Nobody, right? But she lived a legacy, and the emulation of her character spoke about what she was, and she came to a position of prominence through a position of service, and in service, began to influence.
Martin Luther King, Jr., the same thing. Willing by faith to step out to risk his life, which ultimately he was assassinated for, to influence, position of service.
I will even say Abraham Lincoln, same thing. You look at Abraham Lincoln, and you’re like, “But he was the President, position of power, doesn’t work, Nathaniel.” But can I tell you? If you study the life of Abraham Lincoln, when he was first in the House of Representatives in Illinois, 1834, he was elected to that position. He had a friend named Elijah Lovejoy who was a minister. Elijah Lovejoy also worked for a newspaper, and he was an abolitionist. He wrote about it constantly in the paper, and it raised a stink in the society around him, to the point that a mob came and killed him. Abraham Lincoln witnessed it, 1837, decades before he became the President of the United States. I’d say the mark of the influence of individuals like Elijah Lovejoy rub onto the life of Abraham Lincoln to where he gets to a position of prominence, he’s already had influence and he’s been living with that influence in his life. That’s how he receives the position.
You don’t have to wait for a position of power to make a difference, ’cause if you’ve a willingness to serve, you already have a place of influence. Their position didn’t make them great. Rather, these great people made their position. Let me tell you, the greatest marker and just the example in our lives of where you can see that most emulated. Look at what Jesus said in Matthew 20:28, “Just as the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many.” Greatest influencer of all time, right? He marked history, never held a political office, never was in charge of a military, never even wrote a book, yet history is changed. Why? Influence. How did he influence? He served. He cared for the soul.
Thinking about Ruth as it relates to marriage, maybe this is why Peter says this to wives. Listen to this. “Wives, if you recognize something’s up with your husband, in the same way submit yourselves to your husbands so that if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives.” What he’s saying is nagging does not work, but serving will. Serving speaks to the heart and shows that you care. If you wanna influence, serve.
Then Boaz says in verse 12, why. This is sort of the reason why Ruth takes this position. He says, “May the Lord reward you for your work, and your wages be full from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.” Ruth, why would you do what you’re doing? Her answer is her love for the Lord. She’s serving because of her God.
The thing in our lives as people, we will not serve with any consistency if we believe we’re the most important person in the room. If we do anything for someone else, it’s so that on the backend, if life is about us, if we do anything for someone else, it’s so on the backend, we might reap benefits from it later. But when you serve in the eyes of God, it’s not about what you get, it’s about what you give. It’s about recognizing being created by God, everyone made in his image, all have worth and meaning. Therefore, you honor God by the way you honor others in front of you, even if they’re rotten.
Boaz is recognizing for Ruth in her service the motivation behind why she does what she does, and the value that she sees toward Naomi and it’s because of her connection and the relationship to her God. I think in this context it’s answering the question for us, how do you know if you are a person of godly influence? How do you know in life that you will be a person of godly influence? I think the question then is this, what do you surrender to? And how do you treat people you have nothing to gain from? What’s your ultimate authority in life? Is it you? If it’s you, the risk that you run is to leverage everything around you is for your benefit, whether it be status or feeling. It’s about what you get, not what you give. Who do you surrender to? And how do you treat people you have nothing to gain from?
I could take that same question with Boaz and say, “Boaz, you and Ruth are gonna get married. How did you know you should marry Ruth?” I would say he’d say the two questions. It’s the same two questions. Who does she surrender to? And how does she treat people she has nothing to gain from? I mean it’s the observation in Ruth’s life to look. How does she react to the grocery store clerk? What happens when she goes and picks up her fast food meal and the person that’s delivering the fast food makes it slow food? How do you treat them? What do you do to people you have nothing to gain from? Because ultimately, Boaz, that’s how she’s gonna treat you.
Boaz demonstrates the integrity of Ruth, the influence that she carries. Verse 11, verse 12, but then Ruth reciprocates by identifying in Boaz something that makes him a godly influence. Now there’s several things for both of these individuals that just reveal where their heart is resting, but when it comes to Boaz, she says in verse 13, “Then she said, I have found favor in your sight, my Lord, for you have comforted me and indeed have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants.” She’s saying to him, “Look, I don’t belong. I don’t belong with you. I don’t belong to your people. But yet you’ve honored me. With your words, you have elevated me.” Ruth is recognizing in Boaz’s character the influence that he’s carrying is resting in the words that he’s sharing towards Ruth.
It’s just demonstrating to us that when we serve other people, words have power, good or bad, they have power and they have influence. In fact, we’re reminded of that in Proverbs, if you think about the influence that you carry in the world. When you say things, you’re accountable for them and they impact lives. In Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” In Proverbs 12, it says this, “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
Even reading those words, no doubt reading in Proverbs 12, when you see those words, I think we naturally just emotionally attach to it, because in our lives we’ve experienced that. You might even think, don’t do this, but you could think of someone in the beginning of verse 12, man, they represent the beginning of what this verse is. I’ve been around them, and I just feel like my inside’s just gutted. On the backend of that, you know you’ve been around someone else that, when they say you’re like, “Oh, that’s just so soothing to my soul. When can we hang out again?” ‘Cause words have power.
Boaz carries influence because he’s an individual that speaks life. You consider your own life then, how are you in being a person of influence? Attitude of serving, like Ruth? Or what about the words that you express? What are they demonstrating? It’s something interesting that the Bible really talks to us about, and I think this is an important issue. What I’m not saying to you this morning is if you wanna be a person of influence, stop saying bad words. Start saying good words. Now, that might be a nice thing to do, but I want to tell you that if all you hear me say today is if you wanna be a person of influence and you’re saying bad words, stop saying bad words, can I tell you all that that’s doing is addressing the behavior, but never getting to the root.
The Bible has a way of saying to us words really are a window. They’re a window to your heart. They reveal what rests in the nature of who you are as a human being. Just think about this. In Luke 6, Jesus, vere 45, “A good man brings good things out of the good things stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart, for the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Your words are a window into your heart. If I say, “Be a person of influence, don’t say bad words. Say good words,” all that we’re doing is treating the symptom. But what Scripture is saying is that when our life beings to emulate things that aren’t good or wholesome or edification or life-giving, it’s reflecting what’s going on in our heart.
Now, look, I don’t wanna approach this from a religious standpoint, ’cause from a religious standpoint it would say to us, okay, that’s bad, be good, and therefore things will be good. But look what it says in Matthew 15:18, “But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.” The temptation is for us to say, “I’m mostly a good person ’cause I say mostly good things. It’s when I do the bad things then that’s not really me.” Just look at the good things I do that I say most of the time, until you do something wrong and then the bad things come out. What the Bible says really is, honestly, that’s all of you.
When our words reflect something of negative nature, destruction, it’s an indication of what’s happened in our heart. The religious tendency is to take the strength in ourselves to try to make ourselves good. “I need to do better so that way I’m a good person of good influence.” But here’s what the Bible says, you can’t.
In fact, in Romans 7, let me just give you some verses. I want you to just think about this in Scripture. I’m gonna shout out some verses and just talk through them for a minute. It’s too much to put up on the screen, but if you wanna write some down and just study them later, go for it.
Roman 7, the end of the chapter in Romans 7, Paul says this, “O wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of sin and death?” Paul is talking at the end of Romans 7 this war that rages within them, the Spirit of God and this fleshly battle. He wants rescued from it, because he keeps giving in to the heart of destruction. At the very end of Romans 7, verse 25, he says, “O praise be to God.” And then he starts in Romans 8:1, “There is no condemnation to those that are in Christ Jesus.”
What Paul is indicating is this battle that wages within lives, not that we have the strength within ourselves to make us good, but rather the Spirit of God comes into our lives to transform us. That is the theme of Scripture. Words reveal your heart, and if you’re not speaking life, it’s because your heart isn’t connected to life, and Jesus is life itself.
If you think about the Bible for a moment, just the scope of what it is, it’s God’s redemption for your life. It’s God pursuing you for relationship. The place in which God wants to pursue you, the area in which God wants to redeem you, it is in the core of who you are as a human being. It is in your heart. God is after your heart. Good doesn’t transform the heart, God does. The Bible is not about making bad people good and good people better. The Bible is about taking a heart that’s dead in relationship to God and bringing it to life. The Bible is all about God’s plan of redemption for your soul, the very innermost being of who you are. God wants to transform that and to work through that to influence the world around you. That is God’s desire.
When you study that in Scripture, if you just walk through texts. Let me throw some out. Ezekiel 11:18, it tells us that God wants to take a heart of stone and turn it into a heart of flesh. It says the same thing in Ezekiel 36:26. Jeremiah 31:31, same thing. In Jeremiah 17:9, it says the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it? When Jesus is talking about the heart in Luke 6:45 and Matthew 15:18, he wants us to recognize something significant here, that there’s an area of our life that needs addressed. It’s not the modification of your behavior, but the transformation of your life.
The answer to what I’m talking about today in being a person of influence isn’t stop being bad, go be good. It’s about coming to Jesus. It’s about recognizing the theme of what Scripture talks about to us, because religiously we try to make all these rules. In fact, we could go to words and say, okay, make a list of bad words and make a list of good words, and we’ll avoid the bad words, right? But the Bible says this, that no matter how long you make that list, the human heart will continue to add to that list where you can never end the list of the things in which the heart could bring that produces destruction in the words that they share, because the heart needs addressed. The heart needs redeemed.
That’s what Jesus’ name is, Savior, Rescuer. What’s he rescuing? His plan of redemption is the depth of your soul, it’s the heart that needs transformed in him, because in its nature left to itself, it rebels from God. That’s why we know there’s bad words. The rebellion within us produces words of destruction rather than words of life. Jesus comes as a rescuer and a transformer.
Let me say it like this. If you read today James 2:10, “He who sins in one area is guilty of the whole law,” what James is saying is you could write a list of words all day long of what you can’t say, but, man, if you just say one of those words, it’s revealing you’re guilty of all of it because the heart is corrupt.
Romans 3:20 tells us the purpose of the law isn’t to set you free, but it’s to point to the condemnation that rests within you. God didn’t give law to free you. God gave law to the Old Testament to show you your need for Jesus, so that your heart would grab hold of him, so you could see what he desired to do within you. God doesn’t hate you, he loves you. He’ll pursue you to transform you that through that transformation then becomes the influence in the world around you.
While religion creates this naughty, nice list, Jesus moves past all of that and just pursues the heart. The point of this verse isn’t to create naughty, nice list to say be good, but to come to God. The theme thought is this, change doesn’t happen in trying, but in dying. Also it’s what the Bible says, it’s this place where you give up on you and stop being lord of life, and you give your heart to God to allow him to transform the life that he desires to make within you. It’s about surrender. It’s not trying, but dying. It’s not bad people, good, and good people, better. It’s bringing the dead to life. It’s renewing our heart.
That’s what Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “For I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless, it’s not I who lives in me, but it’s Christ that lives in me, and the life that I live, I live by faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Paul’s life is about laying it down because he understood what Jesus wanted to do in him. He was a person that practiced the law, and now he finally finds freedom in Jesus. So the purpose of the law was never about setting him free, but pointing to his need in Christ so he could be rescued and he can live in this world as a life that is transformed and seeing transformation take place through him.
That’s why he goes on in other portions of Scripture, he says this, “But it you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, look, walk by the Spirit, and you’re not carrying out the desires of the flesh.” This idea that walking by the Spirit is surrender, it’s no longer I but you that live in me, Christ.
2 Corinthians 3:17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom,” or liberty. “But we all with unveiled face, beholding as in the mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory.” Words are a window into the heart. What it reflects to us is where your heart rests.
In a very practical way, guys, this is how it looks in our lives. In my life, I can see evidence of things that are not life-giving. They’re not honoring. They’re not God-glorifying. So I come before the Lord, and I bow myself and I say, “God, I’m a sinner. My heart shows the evidence of darkness. I honestly don’t have the power to change it because if I did, I would have already. But you do. You came for that. You came to earth to die for my sin, to renew me in you. God, rescue me. Transform me. I surrender.”
I think the Christian life begins and continues that way. That’s what it is. The Bible says Jesus Christ is Lord, and so when you make that profession in your life, it’s about the surrendering of your heart. That’s what God’s pursued, this surrendering of your heart. Man, I just said some stupid stuff emotionally to my spouse that I wish I could take back, but I can’t. Now I just see the ugliness that it’s produced and the death that it causes in our relationship. It didn’t literally kill her, but it kills our relationship. I need redeemed from that.
Here’s the good news that Paul says in Romans 8:1, “There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” What God desires to do in that is to, one, rescue you, but to also transform you, so every day of my life as a follower of Jesus, I recognize I can screw up. I can emulate something that I do not stand for. I can be a hypocrite in the life that I live. Every day of my life it becomes this place of surrender, and when I make that step towards destructive behavior, I can see within that that my life is tending towards my own fleshly desires rather than him. So I step in Christ.
The story goes on from here. Verse 14, “At mill time, Boaz said to her, Come here that you may eat of the bread, and dip a piece of bread in the vinegar. So she sat beside the reapers and he served her roasted grain, and she ate and she was satisfied and had some left.” What you’re gonna see in the context of the story it’s gonna continue to show different ways her character is emulated. It’s not just in words. We’re not just talking about words. We’re saying in every area of your life, what’s the indicator of your heart.
Let’s just be honest in saying that good doesn’t cut it, because if it did by now you would have perfected yourself. There’s something within the tendency of human nature that allows that to keep rearing its ugly head and as much as you might not like that about yourself sometimes, there it is, and there it is, and there it is.
Come to Jesus. I think it’s important to know how Jesus receives us, right? Sometimes we get in our lives and we mess up, and we think, why would God love me? Isn’t that the beauty of Romans 5:8? “God demonstrates his love to you while you’re a sinner.” Jesus loves you in the darkest of days because he came to serve and to give his life for you that you could experience transformation in him.
Here you see with Boaz again, he’s honoring of Ruth, so much so that he invites her to the dinner table. Now, in our society today, we may not think this is a big deal, but in Boaz’s society, this is a very big deal. This is an elevation of her position. When you think of the risk that Boaz runs because people in his society do not like her. She’s a Moabite. By inviting her to his table, he lowers his stature. But by inviting her to his table, he raises hers. Here’s this lady that’s treated with disdain from the society around her. He invites her in.
He loves on her really as a reflection of Jesus because Jesus ultimately uses this as a story of redemption, but it’s a reflection of how God’s love is toward us. We don’t belong at his table. I do not belong at a table with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I do not belong in his presence. But he loves me, and he elevates me in my brokenness before him.
In the story, Boaz is elevating Ruth in the bankruptcy of her life among people that may reject her. He’s elevating her status and he’s giving her a place of honor and position around the table. For what reason? Boaz had nothing to gain here, but Boaz’s life is reflecting transformation in his God to love on somebody that may not give him any status in society, in fact, won’t. We could look at this and say, “Well, Boaz might have had some love interest here.” But the truth is, if you read the rest of Ruth, you find out that Ruth is the one that pursues Boaz. Boaz doesn’t pursue relationship with her. But Boaz honors her.
I wish if I could speak something just into society today, it would be the thought of what Boaz is enacting here, this idea of honor, that we as people don’t have to agree with everyone in order to honor them. You notice, especially on television today, when you get two people of different views that do not agree, the minute they recognize they don’t agree, that rather than talk about the issue, they start attacking one another’s character. It’s as if to say rather than discuss this issue in order to make myself look good and elevate me above you, I’m gonna dishonor you in my discussion to honor myself, to elevate me because it’s all about me.
From the Scriptural perspective, as followers of Christ, the Bible gives us no place to ever dishonor anyone. In fact, 1 Peter 2, it says honor the king. 1 Timothy 5:17, honor your elders. 1 Timothy 6:1, honor your boss. Hebrews 13:4, honor marriage. Matthew 15:4, honor father and mother. Romans 12:10, outdo one another in showing honor. In no context does it ever say, if they are worthy of the honor or if they’ve not done something to make you mad, and in which case, express your anger. It never says that. It always talks about honor. Do you know why? Because no matter how dark a heart may be, every human being is created in the image of God. By honoring life, we honor the Lord.
The Bible calls us, not because of what we might receive, but what we have to give, thanks to Jesus. If you think about what honor does, Christ comes into this world, gives his life for you at a position where your heart needed rescued, but he owed you nothing. In that honor, he displays towards you as a human being, giving his life, it elevates you in Jesus to find transformation in him, so that when you become an emulator of that in your own life, it transforms the darkness of society around you. You don’t wait for society to be good before you start to respect the people in front of you, but rather recognizing the way that Jesus transforms your own life, you honor those around you. Honor shows the motive of your heart. It’s another window of what’s taking place in your life.
If you go throughout the story, let me just skip ahead real quickly. Ruth does this again, so talking about Ruth, “She gleaned in the field until evening, then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley.” She’s a hard worker. She’s into the evening working. Then verse 18, “She took it up and went into the city, and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also took it out and gave Naomi what she had left after she was satisfied. Her mother-in-law then said to her, Where did you glean today and where did you work? May he who took notice of you be blessed. So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, The name of the man with whom I have worked today is Boaz.” She’s generous to her mother-in-law in giving to her of what she received from the fields.
Then she begins to share about Boaz. Then her mother-in-law responds here, a very wise woman in her words. She says, “Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, May he blessed of the Lord who has not withdrawn his kindness to the living and to the dead. Again, Naomi said to her, The man is our relative. He is one of our closest relatives. Then Ruth, the Moabitess, said, Furthermore, he said to me you should stay close to my servants until they have finished all my harvest. Naomi said to Ruth, her daughter-in-law, It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his maids, so that others do not fall upon you in another field. So she stayed close by the maids of Boaz in order to glean until the end of the barley harvest and the wheat harvest. And she lived with her mother-in-law.”
What’s she saying here? Naomi is giving the best wisdom she can in these moments. “Girlfriend, do not let this one get away.” Naomi is speaking into her life, but she’s following a custom. I need to talk about a kinsman redeemer a little bit, but Ruth’s following a custom at the time when it relates to marriage, which is a little foreign to our American culture.
In our American culture, if you’re single, you find someone that you get strong infatuated feelings for and you pursue a relationship until maybe one day you get married. In other cultures, they follow more of courtship or prearranged marriage. That’s where you allow more of the family to speak into the life of marriage. In our culture today, when you’re single, prearranged marriage and courtship seems stupid because we like our freedom. You wanna be able to choose. But when you’re a parent watching your young children grow up, it seems like it’s a genius idea. Can I speak into your life just a little bit?
The reason I think some cultures, even today, I think more cultures tend to do this today, or the majority of cultures still do this today, but just not in America as much, I think the reason is because marriage was treated with more care in past centuries and cultures today than what we probably honor it with in our society. It’s not to say that all of us are about dishonoring marriage, but here’s what I think they recognize in their cultures. When a person got married, they married into a family. The health of your family really depended on it. You’re in an agricultural society where you’re dependent on one another and if someone went down with something, the rest of the family rallied around them to help out. There was an interest in the family as to the care that would be given to the individual that was about to get married. The family kept that interest and they spoke into one another’s life.
To be honest, in our society today, we probably take that decision a little too lightly because when you marry, that is a major decision of life that will affect generations. You have the ability to make a choice that will impact generations, good or bad, or maybe somewhere in between all of that, but it affects people. They treated this decision with more of a family type structure.
On the back end of that, let me just say there’s no such thing as a perfect person. All of us, our hearts are prone to sin and so there’s no such thing as a perfect person. But at the same time, if you get married hoping someone will change, I don’t think there’s a lot of wisdom in that either.
In our society, in American structure, the way it works for us is that we find an infatuation for someone, then we decide to date, then culturally now we make a lot of stupid decisions where we get emotionally entangled and to pull apart at that point, it’s gonna hurt everyone. So rather than pull apart, we just tolerate it, hoping to overlook the character flaws and wishing that maybe one day that this person might change. You get into the relationship and you realize it’s not changing, you start nagging. Let me just say, nagging helps nothing. Nagging will help no one. All it does is embitter both people because they retaliate against one another and that change won’t happen. But finding a godly heart, I think it’s important to the health of a marriage.
I think Boaz and Ruth are seeing it. Getting married because of what you get is a stupid reason to get married. Having kids because of what you get, that’s a stupid reason to get kids. When you were single, you probably thought you were the most perfect person in the world. Then when you got under roof with someone else 24 hours a day, seven days a week, wait a minute, things are not as perfect as I thought they would be here. Well, it must be you, because I was perfect before this happened, right? It’s not about what you get. You get married because of what you give. Kids are about what you can give.
Boaz sees this in Ruth because he sees the way Ruth cares about the people around her when she has nothing to gain from them. Ruth sees this in Boaz because she sees a man who’s elevating and honoring her when he has nothing to gain for doing it. The way they treat someone they have nothing to gain from will be the way they treat you.
End of the story, at the very end of Ruth, I’m gonna jump to the end and so you can see how this concludes, but Ruth 4:16. “Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her lap and became his nurse.” Ruth and Boaz get married, they have a kid. The neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi, so they named him Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.”
Again, in American culture, we may not think this is a big deal because we’re very individualistic in our society, but in Ruth’s culture, this statement is a huge deal because it’s a family structured society, and when the family succeeds, everyone succeeds. They celebrate that success and what they’re seeing in this story is that through these two individuals that are honoring to those around them and loving of their God, God blesses them and from that becomes this lineage that will bless all of history because this is where Jesus comes from. It’s sort of the Three Musketeers mantra, all for one and one for all.
The story is telling us in the midst of darkness, in the midst of brokenness, in the midst of a woman’s life who has no power in her position, she still influences. How? She serves. She serves. The attitude of service, it carries tremendous power and the influence of lives around us, even when she has nothing physically, monetarily, in the worldly standards. She cares for the soul.
How do you be a godly influence? From a place of service. But why would you ever serve? The transformation of the heart. ‘Cause when we get to the end of this, I’m saying to us, examine what emanates from your life. If there’s a part that you don’t like, the answer is don’t be good, stop being bad and be good. The answer is surrender that to God. It may take time for the Lord to transform in your heart, but give it to the Lord, let the Lord work in it. Know how God receives that. The Bible’s not about making bad people good. It’s about bringing the dead to life that the transformation of life because of what Jesus can do in us and through us.
Then it says in the backend of all this, don’t underestimate the influence you have in the lives of people around you. You look at Ruth’s legacy, and you’re like, “Man, how could I ever do that? You don’t know what my past holds or what I’ve done as a person or where I’ve been and what I am as an individual.” I would say, big deal. Look at Ruth. That’s what this story is screaming. This story is screaming here is a lady who literally had nothing, according to what life has. The value of what we would look at a person and say you’re worthy because of this, Ruth’s got none of that. But, man, incredible influence ’cause she just gave her heart to God. She surrendered and she honored those before her. She took that position of service. Don’t underestimate what God can do in you and through you as you care for those souls in front of you.