We need to recognize the hand of God is at work
If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn to Ruth, the second chapter. We will continue to go through this Christmas season, this Advent season, looking at this wonderful story found in the book of Ruth.
There was a girl one time, a young girl, a child. She made a ragdoll. She didn’t have a lot of friends and she didn’t have a lot of toys, so she herself made a rag doll that she could play with and carry around with her. It was good. It was her best friend. She would play with it inside and outside. Everywhere she went, she would take this ragdoll.
The ragdoll got worn and it got dirty and on one occasion, her parents were going to go visit grandparents. They would not let this little girl take her ragdoll.
The ragdoll was just too dirty and too worn out to be taken with them to the grandparents’ house. Well, while they were gone, a huge torrential rainstorm came and flooded the area – that town, flooded her home, and when they were able to go back, the little girl discovered her worst fears had come true. That little rag doll had been swept away in the flood waters.
Now, as the town recovered and rebuilt, a little thrift store was set up, and this organization was selling items that they had found in the flood waters. Now ,it was just very reduced prices and all the money in the store went to help the community rebuild. So, the little girl walks in the store and she sees sitting on the shelf her ragdoll for $0.25. She runs home, does a tour around the house. Dad gives her a quarter. She goes back. She buys the ragdoll back, and takes it home. Now, as she’s walking back home, here’s what she is saying – I made you. I lost you. I bought you back, and now you’re all mine. See, a sad story turned into a good story.
I made you. I lost you. I bought you back and now you’re all mine.
I tell that story to introduce what we’re talking about today, because Ruth is a micro picture of the grand narrative of the whole Bible. From Genesis to Revelation, we see God working in history and through history to redeem a people who are lost. In a real sense, God has said I made you. Now I have to explain this one. You know, God lost us not because anything God did, but we turned our back on God. We are all lost because we have disobeyed God’s Word. So, God made us. We were lost. God bought us back through Jesus Christ, and now for those who have faith in Jesus, we are all His now and forever. That’s the grand story from Genesis to Revelation in the whole Bible. The whole Bible.
Ruth is a micro picture of that story – where we’re seeing this family, these two ladies, Naomi and Ruth. And last week, if you remember, Elimelech moved his family away from God, moved his family out of God’s Promised Land, moved his family away from God’s Word, away from God’s people, and there were some really bad consequences. And then, we see Naomi coming back, coming back to the Promised Land.
And Ruth makes the decision, the wise decision, to stay and come with her, and that’s where we pick up the story. They’re back in Bethlehem. It is the time of harvesting the barley, and we are going to see as we read chapter two, that in all of our circumstances. In every good time and bad time, rebellious times, following times, and in all of our circumstances,
God sovereignly provides for His people.
God is providing guidance and direction. God is working behind the scenes and kind of in front sometimes. A really cool thing about Ruth – there’s no miracles in Ruth. God doesn’t even verbally speak in the book of Ruth. I mean, you’re reading the book and you read the Old Testament and you’re like, man, God parted the Red Sea and spoke to His people, and you get to Ruth and God is not speaking and not doing miracles.
But what you see is God working behind the scenes. God is orchestrating the very fine details of this family. God is orchestrating and guiding, very sovereignly controlling everything that’s going on. He’s putting the family and these individuals in the right places at the right times to accomplish His ultimate purpose, to accomplish His ultimate will, which is to maintain a royal line. Don’t forget that Ruth is a part of the royal lineages of King David and Jesus.
When Elimelech died, when his two sons, sick and dying – that’s what their names mean – when they die, that royal line is dead. There’re no other heirs. The line of David is dead. The line of Jesus is dead, so God is now working to restore that royal line and preserve His purpose and plan, and He’s always working. He’s working through those bad decisions. He’s working through those good decisions, and so that’s where we pick up.
Like last week, we’re not going to read the whole chapter. We’re just going to pull out some of the high notes as we go along. But the first thing I want you to see is
1 – God provides divine direction.
He provides divine direction. He has led them back to Bethlehem at the harvest time. It’s not an accident that it is at the harvest time. Now remember, Ruth and Naomi are husbandless. They don’t have anyone to protect them or provide for them or get food. They have nothing in this culture. They’re husbandless. They’re homeless. They don’t have anywhere to stay. They’re helpless, they’re hopeless, and they’re hungry.
If they would have showed up at any other time, there wouldn’t have been a way for them to get food, but since they’re showing up at the time of the harvest, the right time, and the right place, they have been provided a way to get food. God has provided divine direction. He’s led them to Bethlehem at the right time, and He, through His Word, has provided guidance and how they can have food.
Look at starting in Ruth, chapter 2, verse 2:
2 Ruth the Moabitess asked Naomi, “Will you let me go into the fields and gather fallen grain behind someone with whom I find favor?” Naomi answered her, “Go ahead, my daughter.” 3 So Ruth left and entered the field to gather grain behind the harvesters. She happened to be in the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was from Elimelech’s family.”
Ruth the Moabitess. Again, the author reminds us that she’s a foreigner. That’s significant. Ruth, the Moabitess, asked Naomi to let her go into the fields and gather grain. Here’s what you see. If you go back to chapter one, Naomi is bitter. She thinks God has turned his back on her. She is like a Debbie Downer. I mean, that’s who Naomi is, right? Now she is just so full of hate and anger.
She’s just going to sit around and if God gives me food, I’ll eat it. If he doesn’t, it’s OK. She’s just sitting there. She’s just a complainer; she’s a downer. She’s not going to do anything, and Ruth is like, we have got to eat, so can I go? Can I go provide? I love this. Ruth has got this heart to provide for Naomi. Ruth is like, can I go glean the fields? How would she know to do that? Because God’s Word has provided some instructions for those who are homeless and helpless and hungry and hopeless. In Leviticus 19, I’ll just read this. In Leviticus 19, God says when He’s talking to landowners, “When you reap the harvest of your land, you are not to reap the very edge of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not strip your vineyard bare or gather it’s fallen grapes. Leave them for the poor and the resident alien.”
By the way, that’s what Ruth is – a Moabitess is a resident alien. Naomi is poor. They are both poor. Ruth is a resident alien, and it says, “I am the Lord your God.” God has such a heart and a passion for the poor, downtrodden, homeless, helpless, hungry people. He has such a passion, that in His Word He instructs the people to take care of the weakest among you. Don’t glean and harvest the edges of your field. Let the poor people come and work, and that’s what they can take. So, God has provided a way for them to have food.
Now here’s what you need to understand, because there’s a very interesting phrase that Ruth says when she asked Naomi. She says that maybe she will find favor. Maybe somebody will let me gather in their field and you’re like, well, God’s Word says she can, so why would she be worried about finding favor? Here’s why. It’s the time of the judges. Remember, it’s the time when the people of God have completely ignored God’s Word. They’re doing their own thing. Most of the land owners in Israel are trying to get as much as they can for themselves. They don’t care about the poor and downtrodden people.
It’s dark days in the nation of Israel. It’s a dark time when they’re just, well, I know God’s Word says we’re supposed to take care of the poor, but I got to take care of mine. I got to get mine. So Ruth is like, I just got to find the right field. I just got to find the right person. Maybe there’s one person in Israel? Maybe there’s just that one guy who is still godly – that one landowner who’s going to let the poor people glean from the edges of the field. Maybe there’s just that one place.
And so, she sets out. Again, God is providing divine direction here, right? She just sets out, and she’s just walking around like, that field looks good. I don’t know. That field looks good. I don’t know. I’m going to hop in behind this group. I’m going to go to this field, this group of harvesters. They’re going to let me fall in behind and gather for them.
Look at the end of Chapter 3, verse 3, the last part. She happened to be – I love that, she happened, or yours might say it just so happened. She just ended up in a portion of the field belonging to the greatest name in the Bible except for Jesus – Boaz. Is that not like the most awesome name ever? I wish I named my kid Boaz, but, I mean, I wanted to name him after me. That was ego, but I should’ve said, I’m going to name you Boaz Drye. If you’ve never heard, little side note, if you’ve never heard a guy named Alistair Begg preach through Ruth, do it cause there’s nothing like listening to a Scottish accent say the name Boaz. Yes, it’s just the awesomest thing ever.
She just so happened, just walking along. Now, “it just so happened” makes it sound like coincidence, right? It makes it sound like as luck would have it. It literally reads her chance chanced. That’s the Hebrew rendering – her chance chanced. Now here’s what you have to understand. The author is using this to emphasize the hand of God at work, because the Jewish people do not believe in luck. They do not believe in coincidence. They do not believe that a chance would chance. It would be read by the original readers as this was the hand of God nudging Ruth to the right field and to the right place.
Because God provides divine direction, she could have gone to any field, and she ended up in a field belonging to Boaz. Here’s what I want you to hear. Wherever you’re at in life, whatever path you’re wandering down, whatever decisions you’re trying to make to provide for yourself and for your family, God has a direction for you to go. God has a path for you to take. God has a plan for you. But don’t be like Naomi and just sit around and wait. Ruth did what she had to do, the only thing that she could do. She got up and she went work to work, and God did the only thing that He can do which was provide her direction and lead her to the right place. God will lead you down the right path. Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s heart plans to go in a certain direction, but God guides his steps.”
Ruth had a plan, and God guided her steps in the right direction. God provides right direction, so she ends up in the field of a man named Boaz, which is important because God now provides divine provision and protection. God provides, through leading her to Boaz, He provides provision and protection.
2 – God provides provision and protection.
Look at verse four. Verse four says that “when Boaz arrived,” or the NIV translation says, “just then, Boaz arrived.” One thing to just keep in mind is that it’s not necessarily like an immediate thing. These events are probably taking place in one day, and so Ruth has been working for most of the day. Around lunchtime, Boaz shows up.
Again, the author’s emphasizing that at just the right time of the story, at just the exact moment Boaz needed to shop up, Boaz shows up. Because if you read what happens, Boaz is going to talk to the foreman, and he’s going to find out who this woman is. He takes an interest in her. He gets some information from his foreman and then he calls her back. And he says, I’m not going to read it all – you can read it in your Bible, he calls her back and says, you’re going to stay here. You’re going to glean in my field. I’m going to protect you from the men. In fact, I’ve told them they’re not allowed to touch you, and you can drink the water the men had gathered or drawn from the well.
This is huge; it’s huge. This is a culture where Jewish women always drew water for Jewish men. It’s also a culture when foreign people had to draw water for Jewish people. And here Boaz is saying you’re not only going to not draw water, but you’re also going to drink the water the men have drawn. He is showing her such great favor, and he’s letting her stay in his field, which is providing great provision.
He’s protecting her from the men. So, we don’t know exactly what has happened throughout the day, but most scholars believe that she has been abused, or someone has attempted to abuse her while she’s working. I mean, why would he say this? And so, it’s quite conceivable to think that she was walking away, that she was leaving the field. She’s like, I’ve had enough of these people. And Boaz, he’s like, wait a minute. He shows up at just the right time, see? That wait a minute, don’t go over there. Listen, those guys in that field, they’re bad. You want to have provision and protection? You stay here with me. I’m going to protect you. I’m going to let you gather food.
I love this because he also says to stay with my female servants. Watch this – this is really great. What he’s saying is you can now go glean and gather in the middle of the field. Poor people weren’t allowed in the middle of the field. They had to stay on the edges of the field, so now Boaz has said Ruth can stay with his servants. Boaz told Ruth – I’m going to protect you, I’m going to provide for you. They’re not going to touch you.
A foreign woman who is quite beautiful, we believe, who would have been very open to harassment and abuse, is now under the protection of a godly man. I want you to see too that when Boaz shows up, the first thing out of his mouth is a blessing, and his workers respond with a blessing.
Boaz shows up in verse 4, and he says, “The Lord be with you.” Everything that he does shows that he’s a godly man. And he’s introduced to us with this phrase – the Lord be with you. Boaz is one of the few godly men in Israel, so God has now led Ruth to the right field, to the right man, who is a godly man, and He’s providing for her and He’s protecting her. That’s huge, and if you read, she goes home with about enough food for Ruth and Naomi for a week. One day’s work – she gathers enough food that will last both of them about a week.
She is going to do this every day during the harvest season, so she has some security. Where she was husbandless, homeless, helpless, hopeless, and hungry, because God has sent her to the right place and to the right man, she is now satisfied, safe and secure. You see how God is working to do that? From the hungry, homeless, helpless to the safe, satisfied and secure.
And she responds with great humility. In verse 10, she falls flat on her face, with her head to the ground and she says, why? Why have you found favor? Boaz just then prays a prayer over her, and I love this prayer. It’s Ruth 2:12. Boaz, in response to her gratefulness, in response to her humility, there is an application here – when God provides for us, we need to be grateful; we need to be humble.
We need to recognize the hand of God is at work and not be prideful and arrogant. We need to humbly confess and thank God for His provision, but here’s what Boaz says in Ruth 2:12. May the Lord reward you for what you have done, and may you receive a full reward from the Lord God of Israel, under Whose wings you have come for refuge.
I said it last week. We see it again – she’s gone from foreigner to family member. That is just the awesome hand of God working. From foreigner, lost, idol worshiping, running away from God, and she’s now a member of God’s family and God’s community because of her faith and because of God’s righteous, sovereign hand at work. We see that not only does God provide divine direction, God provides divine provision and protection, and He also provides divine redemption.
3 – God provides divine redemption.
Ruth heads home. Can you imagine down in the dumps, Debbie-downer Naomi – I ain’t got no food and don’t know how I’m going to get it – and here comes Ruth walking in the doors with a satchel and enough food for a week. And then, Naomi would be like, where did you get this? Like there’s this guy and his name was Boaz. And then you can almost see. You can almost see Naomi in this moment begin to change. You can begin to see her go from bitterness, hatefulness, and anger to having, like a personal revival. Look at Ruth 2:20. This is kind of going to sum up what her response is. Naomi said to her daughter in law, “May the Lord bless him because he has not abandoned his kindness to the living or the dead. Naomi continued, “This man, Boaz, is a close relative. He is one of our family redeemers.”
Naomi is like, huh? You got all this fruit from Boaz? I suppose I’ve been to a family reunion with Boaz. He’s in the clan of Elimelech. He is a redeemer, which I’ll get to redeemer in a minute. She’s having a personal revival as Naomi is beginning to see how the hand of God is at work.
Chapter one, verse 20, she’s bitter. Chapter 2, verse 20, she’s blessed. Such an amazing turn around when God is providing for us.
There’re two things I need to point out to you. In verse 20, she says May the Lord bless him. Now she’s probably talking about Boaz and the Lord. She’s talking about both. Bless him for his kindness. That word, kindness, is a very crucial word to understanding Ruth. You see it some in chapter one, and you’re going to see it again later. But it’s the Hebrew word “chesed.” It’s such a powerful word for the Old Testament. It’s a word that there is no English translation for. There’s no English word that can accurately tell us what that word means. It’s translated here “kindness.” It could have very easily have been goodness, mercy, love, compassion, covenantial loyalty or faithfulness.
This word is an action word dealing with relationships. It is a relational word. Now just follow with me here. You need to understand this word to understand what this this passage is talking about. It is performed to a situationally weaker person, a person who has found themselves in dire circumstances. They have a problem; they cannot fix it themselves. It’s bad. “Chesed” is performed to that person from a more powerful person who is able to provide for them.
So, let’s say I’m going to give you something that’s going to pull you out of the dire circumstances – that is what Boaz has done. That is the kind of love and mercy and compassion that he has shown to Ruth. But as you see it, this is where you see the picture of God. The ultimate action, the ultimate “chesad” action comes from God, right? God sees his people lost and wandering, desperate in a dire situation. Listen, from the moment we’re born, we’re born into a dire situation because of sin. And God says, I love them enough. I’m going to show mercy. I’m going to show grace to make a way for them to come home.
By the way, the act of “chesad” is always voluntary. Boaz could have looked at Ruth and said, I know what God’s Word says, but nobody else is following it. God could have looked at His people and said, you know what, they’re just so messed up. I’m going to go to another planet and create some more people who will listen to me. God could have done that. But instead, He showed great love and compassion and made a way because He provided a kinsman redeemer.
Naomi says Boaz is a family or a kinsman redeemer. A kinsman redeemer has a few opportunities. It is a family member who can buy back or purchase or redeem. Here are the situations: they can buy back a family member who was sold into slavery. Again, that’s in Leviticus 25. They can purchase land which had been sold under economic hardships. That’s in Leviticus 25. The kinsman redeemer can continue the family genealogy and family name by marrying a family member whose husband has died. Now that’s not, I mean, that seems like that’s what’s going on in Ruth, but that’s not exactly it.
The family marriage is usually a brother-in-law marrying his brother’s wife. OK, so that’s very specific there. But that is a kinsman redeemer. And kinsman redeemer could be a blood avenger. It was like, oh you killed my brother. I’m the kinsman redeemer. That could be a kinsman redeemer – spelled out in Numbers 35.
What we see is God has orchestrated this to raise up a person in Boaz, the kinsman redeeme,r to practice “chesad” and redeem Ruth and Naomi from their dire circumstances. That’s God, right? That’s what God has done for us. The picture in Ruth is a picture of what God has done for everybody here. He’s raised up Jesus, the Kinsman Redeemer. In the middle of their hopelessness and their helplessness, God provided hope. In the middle of our spiritual helplessness and our spiritual hopelessness, God has provided hope through Jesus. Hope has come. The Prince of Peace is come. That’s why we’re celebrating Christmas because a Kinsman Redeemer has been born to restore us from a foreigner to God’s family. That’s huge; that’s huge.
In Ephesians 2 Paul writes this: “But, God.” Naomi and Ruth were pretty bad off, but God. Paul writes, “But God, Who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He has shown us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in our trespasses.” You are saved by grace. “He raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavens and Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might display”…look at this…”He might display His immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Jesus Christ.
The New Testament word is not “hesed,” but that’s what you see. The New Testament word is “agape.” Agape is unconditional, loving action that God sent His Son to be born and then to die for our sins, so that we could be restored from a dire circumstance, so that we could be rescued and brought home. God did that. He bought us back.
Because Jesus paid the price, because God loves us that much. That’s the story of Ruth and Boaz. Ruth is the church, Boaz is God, Who sent Jesus to die for His people.
Have you put your faith in Jesus? See, Ruth had to respond. Ruth had to step out on faith. We have to step out on faith. We have to put our faith in God’s hand of grace. Have you done that? Do you know Jesus personally? Have you said I’m going to surrender my life? I’m gonna give all my life, not just this area or maybe just this area. Not just Sundays, but my whole life. I’m going to give it to Jesus. I’m going to bring all my mess, all my sadness, all my sorrow, all my weaknesses. You know, I’m going to bring it all to Him, and I’m going to let Him forgive me, let Him clean me up. All of it.
Have you done that? Have you asked Jesus to forgive you of your sins? Have you accepted Him as your Savior? If not, the invitation is here today. He’s inviting you into His family. He’s saying, come give your life to me. Follow my Son into the waters of baptism. Make a decision today to accept the Kinsman Redeemer – to move from homelessness, hopelessness, and helplessness to satisfied, safe, and eternally secure.
Let’s pray together. Father, I thank you for your Word. I thank you for this love story, this story of Ruth and Boaz and Naomi. It’s such a good story, but it’s a good story because we see Your redemption. We see that You are always working behind the scenes to accomplish Your purpose and Your will, that you’ve been working behind the scenes in our life to lead us in a path. We just have to surrender that life to You. We have to step out on faith and follow You. So, help us to do that. Help us to receive and accept your redemption and draw us in from being foreigners and make us members of the family. We love You and we thank You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.