Get out of the grave clothes and put on the grace clothes
Let’s go to the Lord for a time of prayer as we open up His Word. Father, it is our prayer this morning that You would open the eyes of our heart that we may see You, understand Your Word, and that we would draw closer to You through this time. Reveal to us what we don’t know. Teach us those things that we need to know and help us to become more like You. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
This morning, we’ll continue to look at the wonderful story of Ruth. I invite you to turn in your Bibles – we have pew Bibles or your holy mobiles to Ruth chapter 3. We will continue to advance the story this morning, and as you’re turning, I want to share with you.
There’s a group of tourists not too long ago that were touring around a little city, much like Old Salem. It was a historical village, a very pristine village. It was Christmas time, so it was all decorated up and these tourists were just enjoying walking around and touring the city. Well, they came to one of these houses and there was a fairly old man, an aging man, sitting there in a rocking chair rocking back and forth, and he waved and one of the tourists said, “Sir, has there ever been any great men born in this town?” That’s a good question. The man sat there, and he rocked back and forth a little bit and he says, “Well, no. Only babies.” Some of you are going to be eating lunch and you’re going to get it and be like oh, I get it. Yeah, only babies were born in the town. Great men or women were born as babies, and they grew and they developed and they became the great men and women of our time.
That’s kind of like the Christian faith, isn’t it? We can be born again. Jesus tells Nicodemus that you have to be born again. The Bible talks about the new birth and the new life. When Christians decide to follow Jesus, they’re just little babies in the faith. They don’t understand everything in the Bible. They honestly don’t understand everything about God, and we never will on this side of heaven. But we’re just little baby Christians at first, but we grow. We grow, and we grow. We become more like Jesus. We learn more, we get involved in the church, and over time we grow. One of the most sad things that I see is 40-year-old Christians who are still babies; Christians who never grew and never developed and never got closer to the Lord. They just made a decision and then stopped growing.
It’s such a sad thing, and that’s what we see in Ruth Chapter 3 is a plan for spiritual growth, a plan that will help you and I grow, to become closer to the Lord, grow to be more and more like Jesus. So just to kind of recap where we’ve been. We’ve seen Ruth and Elimelech and their two sons leave the promised land and go to the Moabite nation, a bad place. They should have never went, but they made the decision to rebel and ignored God, and they went to a place they never should have went.
The husband died. The two children died after they were married, and Naomi and the two daughter in-laws are left. But what I’ve said throughout is they were left husbandless. They were left homeless. They were left helpless. They were left hopeless and what we saw last week, they were left hungry because in that culture, the men were the providers and the protectors. We see that Naomi decides to go back to Israel because the Lord is blessing Israel, and she tries to convince the two daughter in-laws to go away and Orpah decides to stay where she is. You never hear about her in Scripture and history ever again. She made the decision to be with the Moab people and their gods, but Ruth said no, that she was not going to stay. Ruth told Naomi – I’m going to be with you. Your people will be my people. Your God will be my God. On faith, she decided to follow the Lord and then we get to Chapter 2.
Again, they’re hungry, and it’s God. We saw last week. God is working so much behind the scenes in the story that they showed up in Bethlehem at the perfect time because it’s the barley season. And so there in God’s Word, there’s a way for them to go get food. So Ruth, out of faith goes. She is led to the field of Boaz, one of the only godly men in the nation, and then Boaz shows her favor. And so, she went from the “H” words – the husbandless, the homeless, the helpless, the hopeless, to satisfied, safe, and secure. All because God was working. So that picks up and leads into Chapter 3. So, Ruth would have worked in those fields, gathering grain and barley and wheat for the entire season. Several months she would have worked. It seems as we get into chapter three that the relationship between her and Boaz – we saw that Boaz is the redeemer, the kinsman redeemer, a possible husband for Ruth – the relationship just didn’t seem to go anywhere.
She works the fields; she receives the gifts; she’s satisfied. She’s safe, secure. But the relationship between her and Boaz is kind of stagnant. She never makes, in this time, she’s not made an effort to draw closer to the kinsman redeemer, and so Naomi in
Ruth 3:1-4: Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi said to her, “My daughter, shouldn’t I find rest for you, so that you will be taken care of? 2 Now isn’t Boaz our relative? Haven’t you been working with his female servants? This evening he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. 3 Wash, put on perfumed oil, and wear your best clothes. Go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let the man know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 When he lies down, notice the place where he’s lying, go in and uncover his feet, and lie down. Then he will explain to you what you should do.”
In Chapter 2 Ruth tells Naomi, shouldn’t I take care of you? Ruth says you’re my mother-in-law. Shouldn’t I go out and find food for you because Naomi is bitter? And by the end of Chapter 2, she’s blessed. And now in chapter three, Naomi says that she will take care of Ruth. You see how the Lord’s working in their lives. It’s so awesome.
Little word of warning here, and if you read the rest of the chapter to see how it kind of unfolds, the Bible has two different things – there are descriptive stories and descriptive things and events, and there are prescriptive things that we are to do. OK, this is a descriptive story. I would not tell my daughter to follow this plan in 2021 to approach a man. This is a very descriptive thing that is happening in the story.
But what I’ve been trying to show you is Boaz represents God. Boaz is a picture of the Lord and Ruth is a picture of the church. You know we have the New Testament as kind of the lens that we can read the Old Testament with, and so we see throughout the story that Boaz really is a picture of the redeemer. He really is a picture of the Lord and Ruth is a picture of the church. And so, what we see in Chapter 3 is a plan for the church to draw closer to the Lord. Boaz has given her all these gifts, and they’re good gifts. It’s Christmas time, right? Anybody excited to get some gifts or the kids here excited to get your gifts? Santa is going to show up. You’re going to get your gifts. I’m excited to get some gifts. I got Jennifer something really cool. I already gave it to her, so I can’t wait to see what she gets me. Nothing has shown up on the Amazon website yet, so I don’t know if she’s ordered it.
But yeah, it’s OK. We love to get gifts. Boaz has given Ruth the gift of safety and satisfaction and security. But the point is we have to get close to the giver. God has given us the gift of Jesus Christ. God gave us the gift of the Redeemer. He gave us a way to have a restored relationship to Him, but we got to get close. We got to have a desire to get closer to the giver.
Yeah, I got Jennifer the present cause I made her mad and had to apologize, and so she got a Christmas present, because I wanted to restore the relationship, right? I had to get closer. You know, I want her to get closer to the giver, so that’s what Ruth has got to do. She’s got to get closer to the giver, and here’s what we see – great story. Naomi says it’s time. The time is right; the opportunity is right. It’s time to get close. It’s time to get you a man, that’s what. It’s time to get married.
Have a plan so that you can faithfully follow the Lord’s path for your life.
1 – Have a plan.
So, what’s the first thing you do? What’s the first part of the plan? We got to have a plan. What’s the first part of the plan? Wash. Well, she put on the perfume. Anybody ever go on a date without taking a bath? How’d that go, right? It probably ended early. Now, understand the context. They didn’t really have what we have today. It’s hot. It’s the Middle East. It’s dusty; they smell. OK, they sweat. But that’s just the culture, and Ruth is like, I got to have a bath, or Naomi is like, you have to take a bath. You got to anoint your body with perfume. They didn’t have deodorant. Bless the 7th and 8th graders of the day, right? They didn’t have any of that. No offense to the 7th and 8th graders in the room. You got to clean yourself up. You got to take a bath. You got to wash because you got to go find yourself a man.
Here’s what I need you to see about this. As Christians, we have to wash ourselves, and that may sound weird cause you’re like, well, I thought Jesus washed me. He does. The blood of Christ will wash you and make you as white as snow. I want you to hear me. That’s justification. That’s salvation, right?
God will not do for us what we are not willing to do for ourselves in the process. What do I mean by that? God has given us a plan and a path to be clean. Yes, He washes us as white as snow. He forgives us of our sins, and we have this desire to follow Him and desire to grow closer to Him. We have a desire not to sin. So, we have to stop doing the things that put us in situations where we’re going to sin. That’s how we wash ourselves.
If we are tempted by being in a particular circumstance, then we don’t put ourselves in that situation. Grace is so important, and grace can cover a multitude of sins. But we have to respond. We can’t just say yes to Jesus and go about living our lives like we did before we said yes to Jesus. We have a responsibility to make an effort. Don’t go somewhere where you’re going to be tempted. Don’t be in that group of people that’s going to tempt you or cause you to stumble. Wash yourself.
We’ve talked about the blood of Jesus. The Word of God is also a way we wash ourselves. God has given us the plan to cleanse our hearts through His Word. 2021 is almost over. Can you believe that? Last year, I encouraged you to read through the foundational passages of the whole Bible – 260 days – foundational passages. It wasn’t the whole Bible, like every single word. It was the foundational passages from Genesis to Revelation. It was the F260 plan for the whole Bible. This year, you’re going to be given and provided a resource to read through the entire New Testament in 260 days – foundational passages of our faith. That is how we can wash ourselves. Spending time in the Word of God and letting the Word of God cleanse us and remove the sins from us.
Naomi also says, anoint yourself with oil. Be clean and pleasing to Boaz. Smell good. Do you know how we smell good to Jesus? The Holy Spirit lives in us. The Holy Spirit of God anoints all believers when they say yes to Jesus. That is the anointing we receive when we say I’m going to follow the Lord, and as we allow the Word of God to work in our hearts and we allow the Spirit to help us to understand the Word, we can live lives pleasing to the Lord. That is how we clean ourselves up.
But then I love the next thing that she says. It is very misunderstood, so I will explain it. Naomi says, put on your best clothes. Dress nice. Now, here’s what you got to understand because a lot of people use this passage to say well, when you go to church you got to wear your best. That’s not what this says. Naomi wouldn’t have had that many clothes. She was poor. She was a Moabite. Her wardrobe would have consisted of just a few things. What Naomi is saying to Ruth is take off the clothes that you’ve been wearing since your husband died. Take off the clothes of a widow. Take off the mourning clothes because you’ve been so sad and it’s OK to mourn. It’s OK to be upset. It’s OK to remember those past experiences as bad as they were, but Naomi says it’s time to get out of your past. It’s time to change your clothes. It’s time to stop mourning and put on clothes and let Boaz know that you’re ready.
Move on from your past. Don’t let your past stop you from your future. Don’t live in the past. You’ve got a present hope with a future, with future security, a future in eternity. Change your clothes. Here’s what I think this means for us. A lot of people come to church, and you’re still wearing the clothes of mourning. You know how I know that? Now, this is general. I’m not speaking about you guys cause y’all don’t do this, but yeah, I’ve seen people in church do this. They walk into church, and they’re always looking for something to complain about. You ever notice that? There’s people that they’re never happy. They need to get out of the grave clothes and put on the grace clothes, right?
I know that we’ve got bad circumstances, and it may have been the week from Hell in your life. You know what? When you’re saved, you can have joy in your heart even though you’re going through trouble. When you come to church, you need to come with an attitude of celebration in the clothes of grace cause Jesus died for you. Why are you showing up in the grave clothes? Always unhappy. You stand there, and you just make a sad face as the worship songs are playing. Why you do that? Now listen, I can’t sing. I can’t sing a lick. The Bible doesn’t tell me I have to sing. It says to make a joyful noise. Now if you’re sitting beside me, my joyful noise is going to take your joy away probably. But we make a joyful noise.
Get out of the grave clothes and put on the grace clothes. Be excited; celebrate your salvation. Celebrate the joy of the Lord. It is Christmas! That’s right. In a few weeks we’re going to celebrate a little baby laying in a manger who was put there by God to rescue us from an eternity separated from Him. That’s something to shout about. That’s something to just have joy about. Don’t wear the clothes of mourning. Get out of your past. Put on the clothes of your future. We talked about this in James, right? We talked about getting get rid of those filthy rags and embrace the clothes that God has given you.
Another part of the plan that we see is we’re to sit at the feet. She says go sit at the feet of Boaz. Now, I need you to understand something. This sounds a little risqué, right? It sounds a little promiscuous, you know. It doesn’t sound good, and in the cultural context, it could have been interpreted the wrong way. So, you’re going to see the integrity of Ruth and the integrity of Boaz in what they’re doing. What Ruth does by laying at the feet of Boaz shows that she’s surrendering to the will of Boaz. He’ll tell you what to do.
When we come to the Lord, we lay at the feet of Jesus, and we surrender our life to Him. And we say, I’m going to do whatever You want me to do. I’m going to go wherever You want me to go because I want to follow You. You’re my Redeemer. I don’t just want the gift. I want the Giver. There was a young man one time who was so on fire for the Lord. He wanted to do great things for the Lord. He wrote down on a piece of paper his plan. He wrote down – I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this. I’m going to do this, and a lot of those things never happened. He began to get really frustrated. He’s like, well, I wanted to do this, but there’s no doors that have been opened for me. I want to do this, and an old pastor, wise pastor looked at this young man. He said, young man, throw that paper in the trash. Get you a blank piece of paper. No words, no plan, just a blank piece of paper. Sign your name to it and lay it on the altar. Let God direct your path and your steps. Let God lead you to the doors He wants you to go through. That is the plan that is spelled out in the Bible. Surrender by laying and putting your life at the feet of Jesus.
Remember Mary and Martha? Mary’s sitting at the feet of Jesus, soaking it in, surrendering her life to Him. That is the plan that we need to have – to grow closer, to go clean ourselves up, do what we can do, respond the way we respond, and then let Jesus do what He can do by submitting our life to Him. So, we need to have a plan.
Now I found this this week – I just thought this was fantastic. I have a very clear application for our church. Anybody ever garden? Have a garden? I’ve meddled in it, but usually nothing grows. But I try. I plan out my garden. I’m going to have a row of corn, 2 rows of beans or rows of this. As a church, we need to plant a garden. We need to have 7 rows of lettuce. Now stay with me now. You’re going to like this. You might want to write this down –
7 rows of lettuce. Let us be unselfish and loyal. Let us be faithful to the duty. Let us search the scriptures. Let us not be weary in well doing. Let us be obedient in all things. Let us love one another, and let us pray.
And then we got to have some turnips. We have three row of turnips. Turn up for church and Bible study. Turn up when things are difficult with a smile, with joy in your heart. Turn up with determination to do your best for God’s calls.
We got to have some lettuce and we got to have some turnips.
But I’ll say this, we got to have two rows of squash. I could probably think of a lot of rows of squash, but we’ll say 2 rows of squash. Squash the gossip. Squash the complaining. Yeah, that’s right, that’s right. Whatever else. We could have a lot of rows of squash. So, we need to have a plan to grow closer to the Lord. The Bible spells that out for us and then we got to
2 – Execute the plan.
This is where we struggle. We can say I’m going to wake up tomorrow morning at 4:30. Going to wake up at 4:30 tomorrow morning. I’m going to read my Bible and pray for one hour. We can say that. We can put it on our phone and have a reminder and we can set our alarm clock. Your preacher’s going to be transparent for a second cause I, more often than I like to admit, when my alarm goes off at 4:30, that snooze button gets hit often, and so I do it on my phone. Did you know that you can adjust the snooze time on your phone? Instead of like 5 minutes, I can make it 30 minutes. I get away. One hour, yeah. We hit snooze. We have a plan. We have a desire, but we got to execute the plan.
Ruth walks up and she executes the plan. She executes it. She doesn’t do it her way. She does it the way Naomi said. She does it the way that God has instructed her through Naomi. She executes the plan. Sometimes we got to execute the plan. It takes discipline to execute the plan. We got to plant that garden. It takes discipline.
And the third thing is we got to
3 – trust the process.
Anybody like to wait on things? This time of year, my kids are so excited for Christmas. They can’t wait to get those presents. We can’t wait to get those gifts. Sometimes we have to wait. Sometimes the Lord says, you’ve got a good plan, and you’re executing the plan. But I need you to trust the process. I need you to wait just a little bit longer. Boaz – he responded with integrity. He responds appropriately. He says, well, Ruth, there’s another relative. He’s closer to you than I am. He really is the first in line to redeem you and your family. I got to go talk to him first. Might take me some time. Might take me some time. I’ve got to do it the right way, and he goes Ruth, I just need you to trust the process.
Ruth goes back. She tells Naomi everything that’s going on. Ruth 3:18 – Naomi said, “My daughter, wait until you find out how things go, for he won’t rest unless he resolves this today.”
By the way, God’s not going rest until He gets you ready. Sometimes we have to wait. What are we doing in waiting? Well, I think Psalm 46:10 helps us out. Be still and know that I am the Lord. In times of waiting, be still and know that I am the Lord. Things very rarely happen in our time, the way we want them to, as fast as we want them to. We’re a Burger King generation, a fast-food generation. We want it our way, and we want it right now. Sometimes God says to just be patient. Be still and know that I am the Lord. Keep doing what I’ve told you to do, keeping the scriptures. Keep preparing. Keep executing the plan. Trust the process.
Yeah, a lot of young college kids that I’ve talked to and ministered to, they come to the Lord and they’re on fire and they’re ready to bust through the gates of hell and get Satan saved. I was like, well you are just not ready. But we call it ignorance on fire, which is good to have fire. You want to have the fire, but you don’t want to have the ignorance. But they want to do it now. Trust the process of being a disciple. Trust the process of sitting at the feet of Jesus.
So this morning, here’s my question. First of all, have you laid down at the feet of Jesus? Have you surrendered and said I’m going to lay down at the Lord’s feet. I’m going to give Him that blank piece of paper.
Second question is, how’s your discipleship strategy going? When’s the last time you spent time in the Word of God reading and studying and praying? When’s the last time you executed the plan that’s been laid out in Scripture?
Another question is, how’s the waiting going? Are you being patient? Or are you trying to get in front of God? This morning, I want you to know that you can draw close to God. Ruth and Naomi have laid it out. Have a plan. Execute that plan and trust the process.
Let’s pray together. Father, we thank You for this time together. We thank You for the story of Ruth. We thank You for all Your scriptures. Father, put in us a deep desire to want to grow up, to draw closer to the Giver. Help us to be disciples who are at Your feet learning, saturating our souls with the scriptures, patiently praying and persistently praying for You to work in our lives and our church and in our community. Help us to draw close to you. We ask all these things in Your Son’s Name, Amen.