Test of True Devotion
I want to invite you to the Book of Ruth. It’s good to see you this morning. By the way, my name is Nathaniel in case you’re new, just got to introduce myself. We’re in a new series together on the Book of Ruth, talking about God’s grace, second chances. A beautiful book of redeeming love. We’re looking at this narrative of Ruth’s life and discovering in this story how her story could relate to our story and encouragement in our walk with God.
The small story of Ruth’s life is a greater cosmic story of what God wants to achieve in our lives through His redeeming hand as it works itself in scripture. I’m thankful you’re here to be a part of it. As you look for the Book of Ruth, Ruth is actually eight books into the Old Testament. So if you start from Genesis, going it goes Joshua, Judges then Ruth, sixth, seventh and eighth book.
While you find that, I do want to take just a couple minutes and let you know how delighted and filled my soul has felt over the last, especially the last few weeks here at Alpine Bible Church. I can think, just a few weeks ago we had a snow storm here at the church. On Sunday morning there was some snow, a lot of ice in our parking lot and I know, I went outside just a little concerned about safety of people, just to see how it’s at, how it was going. We did have a few people slip, which I’m sorry for that.
But what was cool to see is that a lot of church family was there and just helping to carry some things and trying to be a place to provide some safety for people as they got in. But it really doesn’t just end there for our church, you walk through the doors and see friendly faces, people serving. I think it’s a beautiful thing, a beautiful expression of your genuineness for Jesus. Not only here on Sunday, but even in our connection groups that meet through the week, just to hear the stories of how God is knitting your hearts together and your love for Christ together. It’s a beautiful thing that God is doing here and I’m thankful that I get to be a part of what God is doing in your lives and His gracious presence over us.
With that being said, I should even add, even this weekend we had a marriage conference this weekend. There’s a lot of people that poured some significant amount of time into that, just appreciate the hearts there. With all of that, I’m going to share from the Book of Ruth, last week we started this series. I’m going to share where we are so far int the context of this story, because this is a narrative and it’s important to know where we’ve been to get to where we want to go.
Last week was the first week we looked at chapter one. In chapter one we started of the story recognizing in the very first verse that this takes place during the time of Judges. And when you read the Book of Judges, when you get to the very last paragraph of Judges, the very last verse, it tells us that the mentality of the people during their end-time, that everyone did what was right in their own eyes. And so their theology wasn’t really driven on truth as God as determined it. Their theology, it was driven by what they would call truth but was really what the desires that their heart were, which might conflict with God.
It’s similar to our culture today, where we teach one another to look for the purpose of life within yourself by saying, “Whatever makes you happy just go for that,” sort of this ad-hoc philosophy to life, where when you wake up this morning, however you feel that’s what you pursue and you kind of determine the reality of your own truth. But reality is that truth is truth whether you believe it or not. That if there is a God and He created us for His purposes, then He’s the definer of what is true.
Contrary to that sometimes we get to places in our life, like Judges, where it tells us that everyone does what’s right in their own eyes. On the backdrop of that it then starts to tell us the story about a man named Elimelech. Elimelech leads his family from the place of Bethlehem to Moab. When he leads his family, he leaves the place of God and the people of God towards what is sickness and death. The reason we know it’s sickness and death is because it identifies for us Elimelech’s two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, which are great names for your children if you’re looking for a couple. Throw those out, Mahlon and Chilion. And defined in their terms in that period it means sickness and death.
And so Elimelech leaves God’s place, God’s people for sickness and death. And I don’t think he’s doing this intentionally but unintentionally. He didn’t want to destroy his family. In reality he really just wanted to survive. He wanted to be a provider, but he only wanted to provide in one area of life, which was just food. When you read the story it tells us that he’s leaving Bethlehem, and they want us to recognize the significant of Bethlehem. Because the words Bethlehem literally means the house of bread.
They’re leaving the house of bread because of a famine. God had told His people, “If you follow me you’ll be blessed. If you don’t there will be some divine discipline because of that.” And so because in the period of Judges people are doing what’s right in their own eyes, walking away from God, God is bringing His discipline upon them. And the people of God, rather than turning back to God are then moving further away from Him, and Elimelech is one of those.
It tells us in the context of this story that he moves for 10 years. So it’s like, Elimelech’s looking for physical sustenance for his family to survive and he’s neglecting all other aspects in his family and it breeds sickness and death. So when they leave the people of God for 10 years, it’s acknowledging to us that Elimelech isn’t taking any concern for the spiritual health of his family. That they’re leading the people of God behind and are going to the land of Moab, where God had already told His people to stay away from. Because when Israel was coming from Egypt as slaves into the promised land, the Moabites refused to give any assistance to God’s people in any time of need.
So God told them they’re godless, they’re idolaters, and stay away from them because they’re going to persuade you into idolatry. Elimelech takes his family, it’s only a 30 to 50 mile journey into this land. The irony is he leaves Bethlehem, the house of bread, because of a famine in search of all of the provision which he could provide in his own strength in life, and what he discovers is sickness and death.
With all the hope that this world has to offer, what he finds he nothingness, emptiness. In this story Elimelech dies, his two sons die, his wife and his two daughter-in-laws are left as widows. One of his daughter-in-laws and Naomi, Ruth and Naomi, returned back to Bethlehem. So they leave from Moab with all the promises this world has to offer and they’re bankrupt. They leave bankrupt to Moab with all the promises in God and hope in Him, and they find themselves satisfied.
It’s in the context of that story, Elimelech not trying to intentionally destroy his family but unintentionally making no provision for the holistic wellbeing of his family, that his family finds death. And then Naomi prays this prayer, “May the Lord grant you find rest.”
Naomi now being a widow on her own, she knows that she’s bankrupt. She has no land for which to find provision. She has no family. And in the time of Naomi family was everything. It was an agricultural society and land was everything. You taught your children the trade, the children carried on the work of the family and when there was ever a need in the family, the family gathered around one another to help provide for that need.
But in Naomi’s life having no land, no family, being older in life and can’t provide for herself, she has no provision for herself. So Naomi knows that her life is looking pretty grim right now. In fact, it could even result in death. And she prays this prayer for Orpah and Ruth, because she knows Orpah and Ruth now being widows themselves, they need to return to their family if they’re going to have any sort of life that the family can provide for them.
And so she prays for them, they may find rest. And then we see this incredible statement, this is a theme verse within the Book of Ruth that I think is worth noting as we started this book together. Naomi talking to Ruth says this, “Then she said, ‘Behold, your sister in law, Orpah, has gone back to her people and her gods. Return after your sister-in-law.'”
But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave, to leave you or to turn back from following you, for where you go I will go and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.”
Ruth gives this profound statement of faith. She steps in and follows God. This is a passage of scripture that sometimes we see read at weddings that really has nothing to do with a wedding ceremony, but it has to do with extreme devotion in the life of an individual. You see that in this passage.
“Naomi, if you leave you could die. You’re old. You have no land. You have no ability to really provide. This world that we live in is brutal. But if I go with you there might be a place for you to survive. We talked about the uniqueness of Ruth story here because when most people become immigrants they do so with the hope of a better life. But here now Ruth is going to become an immigrant as a Moabite into the land of Israel where the people hate her people.
She’s not thinking necessarily about a better life in this world but in the world to come. The reason we know that, because verse 17 says, “Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.” The word that Ruth uses here for Lord, this is a very specific name of God. In fact this is the name of God that the Jews would rarely utter because they were afraid of any sacrilegious thought that would go into this name. This is the sacred name that God gave to them from the time of Moses, when he called them out of the land of Egypt.
They wouldn’t just utter this off their lips, and definitely not flippantly. And Ruth identifies herself with this God, and so from this point on the story of Ruth becomes an authentic genuine faith journey being told for us. The beauty of this genuine faith journey is that we see in the context of her life being lived out, that Ruth in turn becomes great-grandmother of King David who is lineage of Jesus. That God takes this foreigner and writes into her story the redeeming hand of God as Jesus comes into this world through her lineage.
It’s a beautiful story, and it’s a story this morning that I want to examine as we look at the context of her genuine faith journey, to then examine our own faith journey to see in our life how genuine we truly are in our walk with Jesus, and as people who desire a genuine faith journey in God, how we can promote that as God’s people, as God’s community. Seeing that worked out in our midst.
So let me just tell you this, I’m going to highlight it on three words. Three things that we I think as people, I believe we experience in a genuine authentic faith journey through your relationship with God. A real faith journey and just looking at this narrative story being told, a real faith journey should be mark by these three experiences. The first two kind of go together and the last one promotes the first two. The first two, it’s risk and sacrifice, promoted through grace. Risk and sacrifice promoted through grace.
Now, as we think about the Christian walk today, Jesus was pretty clear in telling us it’s not always going to be easy. But we know the ultimate hope rests in Jesus. But if we were to be honest, I think we could say it like this, as followers of Jesus we may not always know what tomorrow holds, but we do know who holds tomorrow. The story of Ruth is that.
By taking this step out in faith to follower her, yeah Naomi told her to go back to her homeland, and yes it could have been comfortable according to earthly experiences in relationship to what awaits her. But what Ruth desired more than anything in this world is to know this God and to walk with Him. She no doubt has likely seen it as God has provided for Israel, in the land in which they had become a part of.
Ruth and her faith that she desires to express, it’s not an ignorant faith. She’s seen how God has worked in the land of Israel, but it’s also a faith in the sense that she’s truly depending upon God to provide. And in that provision she’s also making a sacrifice. She’s leaving a world of certainty, of relationship that she has been a part of behind in order to press on into a greater future in the God who is before her.
And so when we talk about a genuine faith journey in life, it is marked by one sacrifice. When you look at this illustration of Ruth’s life and you compare it to the rest of scripture, you see those in which God tells their stories about entrusting in Him. It is one of consistent sacrifice and depending upon God and all other things in this world.
In fact, in Philippians chapter three starting in verse one Paul lays out his life’s journey, of everything that he could be trusting in in this world. And then in verse seven he starts to say this, “But whatever things were gained to me, those things I have counted as lost for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be lost in the view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.”
When you consider a genuine journey of faith, one of the notable marks in scripture is sacrifice. Maybe even for us in looking at Ruth’s story and trying to connect this narrative to our life, it would leave us to ask the question, “What sacrifice have you made to show the genuineness of your faith?”
So we live in this society where saying Christian, really it’s not that difficult. It’s more of a popular way of viewing the perspective of who you are as a human being. It’s losing its popularity over time but nonetheless there’s not as much consequence to it.
And so when it comes to the genuineness of your faith, one of the marks that we have as individual to demonstrate that is the willingness to sacrifice, to say, “Above everything else that might be valuable to me in life, the thing that matters most is Jesus.” It’s to look a your life in the midst of culture and Christ, and saying when culture presses against Christ, what do you ultimately choose? What sacrifice have you made to show the genuineness of your faith?
I would even encourage us in that and say as Christians if we ask that question and the mark that you go to is something that happened 20 years ago, I’m not asking that question for 20 years ago. I think in the consistency of your walk with Jesus it confronts the culture of this world every day. If your faith is alive and active it shouldn’t be dated to something that happens decades ago.
But if faith is to be considered genuine, then the sacrifice of other things to demonstrate the genuineness of that faith should be something that we should be able to see within the context of our life if Jesus really matters.
I like the way Peter says it in first Peter chapter one. He’s writing to a prosecuted church. He says in verse six, “Though you’re experiencing various trials the testing of your faith more precious than gold and silver, lifts the praise and the honor and glory of God.” Peter’s even acknowledging how the faith has sacrifice, but when that faith sacrifices if it’s genuine what it promotes is the goodness of God in our life.
He even goes on further than that and he says, “As you demonstrate that in your life the world around you, though it may prosecute you, though it may try to malign you, as you remain faithful they see the goodness of who your God is.” What sacrifice have you made to show the genuineness of your faith?
The context of Ruth’s story continues on. It tells us in chapter two verse one, it starts to tell us about this character named Boaz. I want to us to know, when chapter two verse one starts, I don’t think this verse is necessarily something Naomi and Ruth are focused on. I think this is for you the reader to know how God is going to provide. It’s about to share with you, Ruth steps out in faith, trusting in God, and God sovereignly is there to provide for Ruth. This is how how we know, chapter two verse one. “Now Naomi had a kinsman of her husband, a man of great wealth.” Real translation is just saying he’s worthy. Sometimes translators go a little further in describing in what way he’s worthy.
In this context it describes him as a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. In Naomi and Ruth’s day when someone in a family experienced a death, the greater family would then see whose responsibility it was to help take care of that particular family’s need. And so you would look the relatives to help provide. In this context it’s recognized, in that Boaz, he’s not the next kinsman in line but Boaz is related to this family and Boaz is going to become a provider to this family because of his faith in the Lord. But it’s telling us in the story that there is someone who can make provision, but Ruth and Naomi aren’t really aware of this yet.
Something goes on in verse two, “And Ruth, the Moabite, said to Naomi, ‘Please let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after one in whose sight I may find favor.’ And she said to her, ‘Go my daughter.'” And so what it’s telling us in this story is that in the time of Israel God had sort of a welfare system setup for people in need. The way that system worked is if you owned a piece of land and you were coming to harvest that land, that the rules of the land were that you couldn’t harvest the corners of your property. You were to leave those and the people could come in and they could pick up what was left behind. If people went through your land and they harvest your land, afterwards if anything was left over people could also go through that and pick up what was left behind.
So this was God’s way, if someone was willing to work a little bit, that they could go to this piece of land and find some sort of substance for their life in order to provide so they wouldn’t starve. And so in verse two this is what Ruth is asking of Naomi, just for her provision to be able to do this, her approval to do this.
She says she’s looking for favor. This word, for favor, is the Old Testament word really for grace. She’s seeking God’s hand of grace. She’s saying to Naomi, “Look, I trust in this God. I’ve seen how this God has provided for you. I’ve come to this land at risk of myself to help provide for you and I just want to see what this God can do.” She’s not waiting around twiddling her thumbs but she’s seeking God’s grace, God’s favor and how God could provide.
And then in verse three, interesting verse, I just want us to think about a little deeper culturally. It says, “So as she departed and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to this portion of field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.” So it’s like she just happened to. She didn’t really know how God was going to provide but for her it just looked like this happening, but God sovereignly, divinely cares about her.
Now when it goes to verse three, this is like her first day on the job. I were to poll us this morning and maybe ask you, “Hey, how many of you love the first day of new jobs?” I think most of us would be like, “Well, I mean having a job is cool, but that first day you’ve kind of got some jitters. So if I could just fast forward two weeks into that, where I have a routine and I kind of know some people and it’s a little bit more friendly, I would rather do that. First day on the job, too nerve wracking.”
And for Ruth, same thing. But I want us to think about magnified and how amplified this situation would become for her. This would have been very nerve wracking for Ruth because when she’s going into this land in verse three … let me just highlight it for us. When she’s heading into this job as a Moabite in Israel, Israel does not like the Moabites. And she’s representing the Moabite people. Any venom that they would want to spew towards the Moabites, guess who becomes the direct recipient of all that hatred? It’s Ruth.
Now we talk about first day jitters, who wants to step in that room? We’ll hire you for the job, but just want to you to know, everyone hates you. All day long they’re going to be watching you. They may spit on you, hit you. You could be killed and raped. Welcome. Even when you look at the context of this passage, both Boaz and Naomi chime in in Ruth’s life. Boaz says this, talking to Ruth about the fields. He says, “Let your eyes be on the field which they reap and go after them,” talking about his field with his reapers. “Indeed,” look what he has to do, “I have commanded the servants not to touch you.”
If he had to command the servants not to touch you, it kind of looks like the plan of the servants might be, “I want to touch her. I want to kill her,” right? So he’s like, “Don’t worry. I walked in and said, ‘Hey, just don’t kill her, okay?'”
Then he goes, “When you are thirsty, go to the water jars and drink from what the servants drawn.” It’s even to say like, “They think you’re so far beneath them that you can’t even drink from the same well they’re drinking from So good news, I’ve told them not to kill you and to not let you get dehydrated and die.”
He goes in verse 15 and 16, if you read on a little bit further, he tells her, “And I’ve commanded them not to say anything bad about you.” And then Naomi it tells us in verse 22, Naomi said, “It is good my daughter. You go out with his maids so that others do not fall upon you in another field.” She’s saying this to Ruth, “Look Ruth, you could seriously die. People here want to … I mean I’ve been getting some death threats in the mail. I think it’s kind of wise that you just take this hand of grace.”
I want to tell you and just confess, I’m thinking the reason Naomi might be saying this, and this is me taking the text probably further than it needs to go, but the reason Naomi might be saying this is Ruth in some way might be dealing with a little bit of pride. I wrestle the same thing in this way. I like to be the person that helps people out. I’m not necessarily always the person who likes to receive a helping hand.
I want to be that guy that’s really there for you, and then when it comes to my life I’ll put the backpack on and carry the weight myself. Which, that’s not really good when you want to be a missionary, like when you tell people you’re going to plant a church. Turns out, it takes some financial resources to do things like that. So you’ve got to ask for some help to start churches like ABC.
I remember when I was in college, I was that person in life that, I don’t like the spotlight, I don’t like to be … This right here, I don’t like to do. This is not what I would pick for myself. The Lord had worked my way to change my life to pursue something like this. If it were the further back row in the darkest place that you could find serving, that would be the spot that I would want to sign up for.
When I was in college I can remember teaching at different places and doing some things for professors in school, where they grade you, and then people would every once in a while say something nice to me. After being there for a few years, one of the professors finally just came out to me and said, “You know what, you really stink at taking compliments.” Because would come and be like, “Good job,” or, “Thank you so much.” I’m like, “Glory to God, whatever. Just don’t draw attention to me, okay? I spoke. I’m done. I don’t care. I don’t want to the spotlight, no attention. Move on.” And the professor’s like, “You know, you really stink at taking compliments. Just say, ‘Thank you,’ and move on.” “Okay. Thank you,” just move on.
But he shared with me why afterwards. He came on to me pretty harsh, he shared with me why afterwards. He said, “Look, everyone in life has different gifts. I don’t want you to be so arrogant as to assume when you serve in life that you’re the only thing that matters, that when other people come to you and offer a word of encouragement or want to help, that you provide them a place to do that man. Because if you’re not providing them a place to do that you’re not providing a place for the body of Christ to be the body of Christ. Let people serve you if they want to serve you. Let people encourage you if they want to encourage you. Let them use your gifts. You’re being a blessing to them to allow them to exercise that. Don’t be so proud as to not allow that to happen.”
I think that’s what Naomi’s saying to Ruth, “Look, you’ve asked and prayed for God’s favor, you’re going out into this field, and I don’t want you to take the hard road because this could lead in your death. Just take God’s hand of favor. Let God give you a place of rest. You think about your faith Ruth, your faith has involved risk and sacrifice.” The wisdom of Naomi, she’s coming into her life and she’s just telling her, “Look, in the midst of this risk let God strengthen you through His people.”
Just think of what Naomi and Ruth are involved in this moments. Ruth goes with Naomi who would likely die without her into a land where she is to be hated in. And Ruth is till young, she probably has some aspirations to get remarried. And now you think about the way she puts out her dating profile on social media. She gets on a little eHarmony that day, or some Christian Mingle. I mean, nice Christian men. She’s like, “I hope he swipes right on this new Tinder app today.” She puts her profile up there, it’s like, “Okay, Ruth what is it we could say about you recently in life?” “Well, I would really like to meet a man that’s not interested in the death of family, and when he wants to know what I have to offer, well I’m a Moabite,” which his people hate, “having pursued a life of idolatry. I come with no kid, no land, no money, and by the way a nagging mother-in-law.”
If you read the end of chapter one, when Naomi comes back in the land she says, “Change my name from Naomi to Mara,” which means bitter. “So we’re sort of this package deal where you get my mother in law from my previous marriage, who is this bitter old nag. Pick me. But you can’t call me because I don’t have enough money for a phone. We just live on a tent by the side of the road. Hopefully we run into each other. I can’t wait to meet you.” What is that? Risk and sacrifice.
It’s the genuineness of her faith being made known. Why would someone step out on those terms? Why would she be an immigrant like that? It’s because she wants to know her God above all else. Because let me say it like this for us, as a way for us to examine what it means to say, “I have faith in God.” If your faith hasn’t involved any risk or sacrifice, can it really be trusted? Without a risk or sacrifice can you really say you’re depending on God? If you haven’t exercised a real dependence on God, can you truly say you’ve ever depended on Him at all?
How do we know it’s just not convenience that we call faith? I think the genuineness of our faith as first Peter six and seven says is seen in the sacrifice. Truthfully, truthfully I think this is why some people sometimes walk away from Christianity. It’s because though they may have called themselves Christians they never truly had genuine faith. The evidence of the sacrifice and the value of their God wasn’t made known. So when you ask the question, when you look back in your life where is the sacrifice you ever made from God? It’s not there, because God isn’t ultimately what mattered.
In Hebrews chapter 11 verse one I think that the beginning of that chapter wants us to understand the expression of our faith being for that purpose. It says, “Now faith is the conviction of things unseen.” It’s not to say that faith is this ambiguous guess, that you hope you’re right. I think God gives us the evidence of who He is pretty clear so that we know we can trust in Him. But in the promises of what He has there’s this place where we have to step out and say, “Hey God, this is who you said you are, now show it.”
That’s what Ruth is saying in this chapter. “I’m pursuing this God, even death comes upon my life. I’m pursuing this God,” and now in verse two, “God, where is your favor? God, I see you as this God of promise. Now God, I’m seeking you in those promise to demonstrate who you are.”
And so Hebrews chapter 11 verse one, “Now the faith is the conviction of things unseen.” So the rest of Hebrews chapter 11 is full of individuals who step out as the hall of faith of individuals that step out and trusting in God. You have Noah, spending 100 years building a boat. Or Moses, with the audacity to come before Pharaoh and say, “Let me have the slaves.” Or Abraham, who leaves Ur of the Chaldeans, in a time and place when family was everything because you relied on that family unit for protection. There was no police force, it was your family that got the job done for justice. A Peter who steps out on a boat, a Ruth who becomes an immigrant.
The mark of genuine faith journey involves risk. And the reality is guys, it’s beautiful when you see it. That’s why we read Ruth today, it’s a beautiful redeeming love story of second chances. It’s beautiful. When it happens in my life and I experience with God, love it. And when I see it in other people’s lives, love it. It’s kind of contagious, right? When you see that it just further encourages you to pursue with people around you.
It kind of leaves me with a question of asking myself, how can our church be that? Or maybe for all of us, how can our church be that kind of place where we see people stepping out and risking it for Christ, wanting to know him deeply in our life? How can we invite that in and how can we experience that? How can we celebrate that? How can that be written in our history?
I’m glad you asked the question, because that’s where Boaz fits in. The second part of a faith journey also involves the experiencing and the giving of this grace. Rather than just solely depending on ourselves we depend on the Lord to provide. In verse four it starts that way. It says, “Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem and said to the reapers, ‘May the Lord be with you.’ And they said to him, ‘May the Lord bless you.'”
You already see the kind of person Boaz is, first verse as they introduce him. Here’s the cool thing, Elimelech, sickness and death, positioned against Boaz who means strong man. I show my wife that every morning. Boaz, this is strong man, this is a Godly strong man because you see it in the story. Verse four it says, “May the Lord be with you.” So Boaz is walking down the strip of the property he owns, where he is reaping, and he just shouts out to the people, “May the Lord praise you,” and then the people start breaking out, “May the Lord praise you.” They start this church service. Loving it. They’re like, “Look, here comes our boss. We love him and he loves us,” and they’re just happy to see one another.
That’s different than some of the bosses we have. Where like, most of us would be like, “He’s coming. Shh, quiet. Quiet. I think he said something. Don’t look. Don’t look.” But here it is, Boaz walks past his people and they’re just excited to see him because they know when Boaz is a part of their life that they’re blessed and they’re better for it. This is the kind of person that drips with encouragement and joy.
You ever around that kind of Christian, I feel so good about myself every time I get away from them? When can I go back to them? I just see Jesus in their life. And then it goes on and starts to describe exactly how Boaz displays this type of character in the Lord that he has.
It says in verse five, “Then Boaz said to his servants, ‘Who is in charge of the reapers? Whose young woman is this?’ And the servant in charge of the reapers replied, ‘She is the young Moabite woman who returned with Naomi from the land of Moab,’ and she said, ‘Please, let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheathe.’ Thus she came and has remained from the morning until now. She has been sitting in a house for a little while.” Verse say, “Then Boaz said to Ruth, ‘Listen carefully my daughter, do not go to glean in another field. Furthermore do not go on from this one, but stay here with my mates. Let your eyes be on the field which they reap and go after them. Indeed I have commanded the servants not to touch you. When you’re thirsty go to the water jars and drink from what the servants draw.'”
What kind of man is Boaz? I mean verse one of this chapter told us he is a worthy man. When you look at verse five to 10, you can just start to see characteristics pop out as what this godly individual demonstrates in his grace. He’s a worthy man. He’s a protector. He’s a provider. He’s one that people are encouraged by. He’s a man that gets stuff done. He is a strong man.
Do you know the difference between a man and a child? A child is one that asks, “What can others do to care for me?” But a man asks, “What can I do to care for others?” In fact we looked at that when God designed man and woman in marriage in Genesis chapter one, 26 and 27. And then in verse 28 it says, “To husband and wife be fruitful, multiply and subdue the earth.” Providers, caregivers.
Paul said it like this in first Timothy chapter five verse eight, “But if anyone does not provide for his own and especially his household, he is denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. And so you see in the life of Boaz this place of grace in his demonstration towards Ruth. Even in Boaz’ time there were certain laws in regards to giving. In Boaz’ day the people who commanded gave 10% to the temple. It went to the worship in the temple in which people gathered around. But that wasn’t all they gave. In fact when you consider the celebrations and the festivals in Israel’s history along with the restrictions they had towards giving those in need in the edges of their fields when they would harvest them, people estimate that most Israelites gave between 20% to 25% if they gave faithfully to people in need.
And then on top of that, then you find in the context of this story, Boaz gives even more. He literally allows Ruth to eat from his profits. After this man gives to God and gives to the people in need, he then invites this woman. And he his kinsman to her, meaning that his people should be taking care of her, but he’s not the next in line, and yet he extends grace. Boaz allows Ruth to eat from his profits, encourage her.
And then Ruth says something that’s very important in recognizing who he is in her life. It says this, “Then she fell on her face, bound to the ground and said to him, ‘Why have I found favor in your sight, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?'” Ruth even recognizes her position in this society. “I am a foreigner,” meaning, “I don’t belong.” But what she identifies about Boaz here, “but the thing that helps me in this moment is your favor. It’s your grace.”
If you want to impact your culture, men, women, this should be us. A real authentic faith journey. It’s a place of sacrifice. It’s a place of risk, and it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful. If you want to be around people that are taking those steps in their lives, you’ve also got to be a person of Grace.
We ask the question, “How can ABC experience people like Ruth whose lives are being transformed?” The answer is, be a place of grace. What is ABC about? If we want to see God moving our value, moving our myths, moving our relationships, it’s important because our goal in life is to honor God. But to do that we’ve got to be a place of grace, a people of grace.
And so if you’re new to ABC or you’ve been a part of our church family for a while, let me just remind you the kind of culture that we want to create. We want to be a place of healing. We want to be a place where lives are transformed. A place where we’re not so much interested in where you’ve been but rather in where you’re going.
Look, we understand that everyone in life, we have scars to work through. But we also want us to walk in the fact that the future is bright in Christ. Now when we say all of those things I know sometimes there’s those among us that are very truth heavy individuals, and here I am talking about love, and we need to be gracious in our love. I want us to know that when we say that as a church, we’re not saying that because we understand our life is full of lollipops and gumdrops, right? We don’t just hide the truth, but we understand what the significant of the truth is.
The purpose of truth is that truth comes in our lives to transform us. Truth is the catalyst for life change. So unless you’re honest with people, you don’t really love them. We don’t shy away from truth because we understand its power. Jesus said, “The truth shall set you free.” But it’s what you do with the truth that dictates and declares your motivation behind it. Because some people will take truth and use it as a club to abuse others, that they’re interest is proving more that they’re right than to seek the heart of others. But I want to you to know, here at our church, the point of truth isn’t to prove that we’re right and other people are wrong.
When you look at Christianity from a biblical perspective we approach it like this, we’re all wrong. We’re all sinful. We all need Jesus to transform our hearts. We all screw up, and the truth sets us free. The truth is a catalyst for life change. Here’s the truth, in the midst of your sin Jesus loves you. As you seek his hand of favor, Christ has already pursued you in the cross.
Jesus loves you. The truth for us isn’t about bashing people over the head and devaluing others, but rather the truth is about serving you and your need for Jesus, to meet you where you are and love you as Christ loves you. Listen, religion is great at telling you everything that you’ve done wrong. But Jesus is gracious in experiencing transformation in him.
I think in my life one of the most beautiful stories I think in scripture that remarks that thought of truth is John chapter four. Jesus meets the woman at the well, alone, and he’s truthful with her. He tells her, “You’ve been married five times, the person you’re with now, you’re not even married to them.” He’s honest. She needs Jesus.
But you know what else Jesus says? He’s a person that loved her at a depth at which she had never experienced love in her life. He thinks she’s a Samaritan, the Jews would never talk to her. And on top of that the Samaritans won’t even talk to her, that’s why she’s at the well by herself. She is the loneliest person on earth. And Jesus being a male who doesn’t talk to females at this time, and Jesus being a Jew coming to a Samaritan, Jesus comes into her life and loves her at such a depth that she has never experienced before.
So we talk about being a people that see this type of faith journey before our eyes and being able to celebrate that. I think the draw to us is also to be a place of such tremendous grace that we meet people where they are and we love them as Christ would love them. That allows us to become instruments or people that are used in the lives of others for life change.
When you look at Boaz’ story, let me just say it like this. God is capable of miraculously doing whatever He wants. He could supernaturally just change things in the life of Ruth. But you know, more often than that the way that God desires to work? While He can do anything miraculously at any time, God chooses to work through you. You know why? Because you are the on that’s created in His image, and you are the one that are given hands to reflect His glory and a mouth to bring Him praise. You’re the ones that God has chosen to draw people to Him in this world.
That’s why we emphasize as a church passages like Matthew 16:18. “The gates of hell will not prevail against God’s church.” Or Matthew 28:19, All authority in heaven and on earth is given to Jesus and Jesus uses his authority to leverage it and you’re positioned to glorify him in this world as God calls you to light up the of the world.
When we think about serving here at ABC, ministry exists for people. It’s about reaching hearts. So I think it’s important for me to just say to say, when we want to see God move in this way, we’ve got to see ourselves as people of grace that invite others in no matter where they are. Here’s why. Your relationship with God is not disconnected from your relationship with others. Your relationship with God is directly connected to your relationship with others.
What I’m saying to you is this, if you really want to worship God and you really want to love God, choose to worship God by the way that you love on others. You want a Bible verse with that, let me give you this. First John 4:20, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar. For the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
Many Christians, it is impossible to say that you are practicing faith in God and you are a believer in Christ, if you then turn around and deny that faith by hating on people. Because if you love God you love the things that God loves. And the things that God loves is people. And the reason we know that is because Jesus gave his life for them.
So the purpose for the church, the church is the only entity created in the world that exists for a reason outside of itself. Because if all it was about was just knowing Jesus, the moment you came to trust in Jesus God would have you taken you out of the world. But you bear his light, to who? To the Ruth’s, those are taking the step of faith and risk and sacrifice, needing healing, wanting to know this God. You are the torch of grace in this world.
And so this passage is encouraging us to recognize in your life, when you do ministry it’s not about accomplishing tasks. It’s about reaching hearts wherever you are. If we want to to be a place where we see people like Ruth thriving in their relationship with God, you’ve got to become a place of grace.
Now I’m not saying we’re not, but I’m encouraging to say, keep walking in this. I think what God is doing here in our midst is beautiful, and I just want to continue to see that happening. So this morning we’re just looking at the question, what is genuine faith? Guys, can you look back and see any sacrifice or risk in your life as it relates to Jesus? Because that really is the proving ground, the testing ground to say you really have faith. Guys, have you become people that club others in the head with truth? Or do you really come to them serving them with it? Are you a place of grace?
And so let me just end with this though, because I think there becomes one important question to ask. Sacrifice will cost you, right? But what if you choose to live this kind of life, or you are living this kind of live, and it just blows up in your face? There’s a risk to this. What you say, “Okay God, I’m all in.” You go out and you try to love on people this way, but what you get is hate. I mean Boaz is running that risk. He goes out and he wants to love people. What if his own people start hating him because of his love for Ruth? Or what if Ruth steps out and all of a sudden she gets beat up? What if she got killed? That could have happened. That was a legitimate concern. All this blows up in her face.
What if that happens to you? You step out, you see this. You want to see this cultivated. You want to see your life bringing further life because of what Jesus does in you and through you. What if you step out and do this and it just blows up in your face? Truth is you can’t have control the way others act, but you can control how you respond, and you can choose to trust into God who fights for you.
Kind of let you know, for me and my family, because of the nature of what we do, I feel like at least once a year we get some sort of threat. Sometimes to the point of a death threat, but more it’s like, “I’d rather maim you and leave you hurting than kill you.” But I feel like at least once a year that happens to us, sometimes multiple times. What do we do?
Romans 12 says it like this, I had a friend bring this passage up to me when I was a very young Christian. It was very timely for him. Romans 12 verse 17, listen to this. “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine. I will repay,’ says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him. And if he’s thirsty give him a drink. For in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.”
So it’s saying to us, “Look, God just created you in this world to be a light and God will take care of it.” I had a friend one time come to me with this passage. He just said, “Listen, don’t waste your life on revenge, because whatever God’s going to do to them is far greater than anything you could do at the expense of your energy anyway.” Trust God. You may not know what tomorrow holds, but you know who holds tomorrow.
Christians, what I’m saying is when you throw mud you get dirty too. But rather do this, let your character speak for itself. Just let the glory of who your God is be made known in your life. Whatever person might come against you, I mean Ruth could have turned to be a psycho woman, only in it to hoard Boaz’ money. You don’t know. He did know she was a godly woman, but just theoretically, right? You don’t know.
Let your character shine. You may not see it payback today or tomorrow, but it will. And ultimately it will one day before your God. Because this is the reason we’re in this faith journey to begin with. It’s not about the accolades of others. It’s about the glory of our God.
And so when we face these kinds of trials in our life we need to ask ourselves, what is it that I want to see as the fruit of my faith anyways? Is it about what other people think? Or is it about the one I want to glorify in my life? Let God be your defender and don’t stand in the way of God fighting for you.
If you’ve ever taken a step out to be a place of grace or a person of grace and you’ve seen it come back to bite you, can I just give you a chapter of the bible? Let it be your anthem chapter, to remind you of how to live. It’s Psalm 37. I’m just going to read half of the Psalm to you, but I think it’s a beautiful place of rest. Listen to this. “Do not fret because of evildoers, be not envious toward wrongdoers. For they will whither quickly like the grass and fade like the green herb. Trust in the Lord and do good. Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your judgment as the noonday. Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him.”
That’s what Ruth’s story is. I don’t have time to read it but if you get to verse 11 you start to see, because she walked in this character God brought favor. Because when you think about the genuineness of your faith journey, and maybe even ask, “How genuine is my faith journey?” I think it starts with this. Is there sacrifice and risk that evidence the value of Jesus in my life?
When you see the beauty of what it is for someone to walk in that way, to then say, “How can I continue to invite that around me?” Because it encourages too. How? Person of grace. Your relationship with God is directly connected to your relationship with others. In fact I would say if you really want to worship God, love on those around you to the glory of your God.