THE KIND PROVIDENCE OF GOD SURPRISES US AS WE ACT DILIGENTLY AND RESPONSIBLY IN OUR JOURNEY OF FAITH
3 SURPRISING BLESSINGS OF THE KIND PROVIDENCE OF GOD
Once again in the Providence of God we come upon a topic that fits in perfectly with the circumstances of my life. Just last Saturday I spoke at the Memorial Service for my brother-in-law Mark Phebus. He was killed suddenly and unexpectedly by a falling tree on the Skyline Line as he was rounding a bend in the road at dusk with my sister Joanne in the passenger seat beside him. He was just moving on to the next overlook to take some pictures of the pretty sunset. [Among many points of interest is that their address was Falling Branch, TN – go figure!] No other explanation can be given other than the Lord had Mark’s name and timestamp on that particular tree. But our comfort was drawn from the Lord’s words that not even a sparrow can fall to the ground without the knowledge and control of our loving heavenly Father. We are of far more value to God than mere sparrows. This was no chance accident from God’s perspective. It was a divinely orchestrated providential event to usher Mark into the presence of his Lord and Savior.
So we come to chapter 2 in the book of Ruth and we are going to see the Providence of God play out in a favorable light. But we must recognize the loving hand of our heavenly Father in either good or bad outcomes – knowing that His perspective is eternal; His wisdom is ultimate; His plans are ultimately for the good of those that love God and are called according to His purposes.
It has been several weeks since we looked at the Background of Ruth in chapter 1 and the different reactions to trials and difficulties and pressures.
– Elimelech tried to flee his trials – ended up in the death of himself and his two sons in Moab
– Naomi simply grieved her trials – a pity party to lament the bitterness of her spirit; a poor testimony to the lessons God was trying to bring through this time of discipline
– But Ruth embraced her trials and demonstrated a spirit of faith and hope as she clung with loyal devotion and commitment to Naomi and the God of Israel
Remember that one of the pictures that the Lord is painting in this short story of redemption set in the time of the judges, is that of the Christ’s love for His bride, the church. The ultimate Redeemer is going to be typified by the gracious kinsman redeemer Boaz while Ruth is going to be a type of the church in this account. We started out describing the desperate situation with its hopeless prospects to set in contrast the amazing grace and mercy of God in grafting the undeserving Gentiles into the covenant family of faith and blessing. Ruth is going to be surprised in chapter 2 at the amazing blessings of the Providence of God. But she is also going to be engaged in some backbreaking labor – God’s blessings don’t negate her responsibility to take initiative and work diligently.
Stedman: ancient proverb: “Providence assists not the idle.”
We all like pleasant surprises and Ruth is no exception. Let’s read Ruth 2 together as if we are hearing it for the first time and marveling at the surprising kindness and mercy and grace of God’s Providence to this outsider, this woman from the land of Moab.
THE KIND PROVIDENCE OF GOD SURPRISES US AS WE ACT DILIGENTLY AND RESPONSIBLY IN OUR JOURNEY OF FAITH
3 SURPRISING BLESSINGS OF THE KIND PROVIDENCE OF GOD
I. (:1-7) THE KIND PROVIDENCE OF GOD DIRECTS US INTO FAVORABLE CIRCUMSTANCES THAT ARE DIVINE APPOINTMENTS –
WE NEED TO TAKE INITIATIVE AND STEP OUT IN FAITH
A. (:1) Divine Appointments Are Waiting in the Wings
“Now Naomi had a kinsman of her husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz.”
Behind the scenes; next act of the play about to unfold; we get to peek behind the curtain and see a glimpse of what lies ahead – Introduced to a key character in this love story – this picture of the relationship of Jesus Christ, the redeemer, to His bride, the Church; introduced here for the reader’s benefit – unknown as yet to Ruth
1) Identified as a relative – “a kinsman of her husband” – possibly a nephew of Elimelech
2) Identified as “a man of great wealth” — “a mighty man of valor”, “man of standing” –
Same words used of Gideon and Jephthah (Jud 6:12; 11:1); important man in the
community; mover and shaker
Deffinbaugh: we see him not only as a wealthy and respected farmer, but also as a war hero.
Pfeiffer: the finest manly qualities
3) Identified as “of the family of Elimelech”
4) Identified by name — Boaz = “in him (Jehovah) is strength” ???
Or “speedy readiness” – Keil & Del.
What person are we going to run into this week that God puts in our path for a specific purpose??
B. (:2) Divine Appointments Don’t Negate Personal Initiative
“And Ruth the Moabitess 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.’”
Huey: The law expressly allowed the poor the right to glean in the fields (Lev 19:9-10; 23:22; Deut 24:19-21), but the owners of the fields were not always cooperative. A hard day’s work under the hot sun frequently netted only a small amount of grain (cf. Isa 17:5-6).
Risky undertaking for a young and attractive widow with no male protection in a culture that was characterized by some of the depths of moral depravity that we saw at the end of the book of judges; took courage and faith on her part; Why was not Naomi going out to glean as well??
Ruth has a positive orientation – looking for God to bless her by showing her favor
Not living in fear that things will continue to turn out badly for her
Role reversal here; now Ruth is the one taking the initiative; she has hope of being blessed by the Lord in her endeavors; note the emphasis every time Ruth is mentioned on her Moabite background; she is a foreigner – this story will be about God’s grace and about the inclusion of the Gentiles in His redemptive plans
C. (:3) Divine Appointments Seem So Random
“So she departed and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers; and she happened to come to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.”
Seems to be just a stroke of luck – she did not know whose field it was or even the significance of Boaz
But no accident – Gen. 24:27 “the Lord has guided me in the way to the house of my master’s brothers” – finding Rebekah as a bride for Isaac
Providence of God brings her to the very field of a man who is both gracious and qualified to be a kinsman redeemer
Maybe you are looking for a job; maybe you are hoping that God will provide you with a suitable life companion; your needs are not very different from those of Ruth; take encouragement as you go about your daily tasks with a heart of faith, seeking to take responsibility and work hard; God can surprise you in the course of your daily routine with incredible kindness and compassion in the outworking of His providence
D. (:4) Divine Appointments Assume the Providential Favor of the Lord
“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.’”
Boaz was a responsible owner – looking after his business interests; engaged in the business and overseeing it;
Here we have an owner who provides a positive work environment for his laborers; concerned for their welfare; interacts with them and knows them personally; no union contract needed to make sure that he properly looks after their welfare
Spiritual tone — Speaking the language of faith – invoking the presence and blessing of God – not very common language in the context of day laborers; no compartmentalization for Boaz of the spiritual and the secular; he was the same person in the Sabbath worship service as he was during the week in the fields of labor; godly, pious man who understood that everything depends on the good favor and blessing of God
E. (:5-7) Divine Appointments Make Surprising Providential Connections
“Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, ‘Whose young woman is this?’ And the servant in charge of the reapers answered and said, ‘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 sheaves. Thus she came and has remained from the morning until now; she has been sitting in the house for a little while.’”
Politeness and Humility of Ruth – even though the law gave her rights to glean in the corners of the field, she still asked for permission; was not asking for any special favors or consideration
Emphasis on her diligence:
LXX “She has not rested (even) a little.
Vulgate: “She has not returned home (even) for a short time.”
Bruce Waltke – Finding the Will of God – one of the ways that God directs us is through His kind Providence – directing the circumstances of our lives;
We need to start with a biblical orientation – Charlie reminded us last week of our need to be in the Word of God – receive it humbly, act on it, and share it; we need to trust God to use the desires of our heart as we continue to grow closer to Him; we must seek godly counsel; we must respond to our circumstances – the outworking of divine providence (understanding that an open door does not always mean we should walk through it); use sound judgment
Application: Don’t forget this week to have your eyes open to those divine appointments that God brings your way – one of the surprising aspects of the Kind Providence of God
II. (:8-16) THE KIND PROVIDENCE OF GOD PROVIDES FOR OUR NEEDS AND PROTECTS US AS WE TRUST IN GOD’S FAVOR –
WE NEED TO ACT RESPONSIBLY AND WORK HARD
A. (:8-9) Providential Provision and Protection — Home field Advantage
“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 maids. 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 are thirsty, go to the water jars and drink from what the servants draw.’”
“my daughter” – points to the difference in their ages; taking almost a paternal approach
“We will protect this house” – Under Armour slogan
B. (:10-13) Providential Grace — Thankful Heart for Favor Shown to an Outsider
“Then she fell on her face, bowing 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?’ And Boaz answered and said to her, ‘All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know. May the LORD reward your work, and your wages be full from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.’ Then she said, ‘I have found favor in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and indeed have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants.’”
Huey: A vivid idiom describes her faith: “under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” It pictures a tiny bird snuggling under the wings of its mother (cf. Deut 32:11). The word for “wing” is also the word for the “skirt” or “robe” of a man (cf. 3:9, where it is so used). Figuratively the idiom symbolizes God as the Protector (Ps 36:7; 57:1; 91:4).
Boaz at this point did not know that God was going to use him to be the fulfillment of these prayers
Illustration: message from Voddie Baucham: 4 qualities of a suitor: Priest, Prophet, Provider, Protector
C. (:14-16) Providential Privileges and Provisions – The Dignity and Reward of Hard Work
“And at mealtime Boaz said to her, ‘Come here, that you may eat of the bread and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar.’ So she sat beside the reapers; and he served her roasted grain, and she ate and was satisfied and had some left. When she rose to glean, Boaz commanded his servants, saying, ‘Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not insult her. And also you shall purposely pull out for her some grain from the bundles and leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.’”
Roasted grain = barley roasted on an iron plate over an open fire
Block: Obviously this verse is not simply about feeding the hungry. The narrator hereby shows how Boaz took an ordinary occasion and transformed it into a glorious demonstration of compassion, generosity, and acceptance – in short, the biblical understanding of hesed.
III. (:17-23) THE KIND PROVIDENCE OF GOD SURPASSES OUR EXPECTATIONS OF DIVINE BLESSING –
WE NEED TO PERSEVERE AND GIVE GOD THE GLORY IN TESTIFYING TO HIS LOVINGKINDNESS
6 Keys to Enjoying God’s Overflowing Blessings:
A. (:17) Work Hard – and count your blessings
“So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley.”
Huey: about one-half to two-thirds a bushel (also estimated as twenty-nine to fifty pounds). Such a quantity could not have been acquired in a day by an ordinary gleaner. It shows how Boaz’s instructions to his reapers aided Ruth and also how diligently Ruth had worked. Since the ratio of a male worker in ancient Mari was about one to two pounds of grain per day, Ruth probably gathered enough to last Naomi and her for several weeks.
Constable: The beauty of Ruth’s character shines forth in verse 21. She did not view her relationship with Boaz as a way out of her own responsibility to provide for herself and her aged mother-in-law. Instead she rejoiced that she could continue to discharge her duty in safety.
B. (:18) Share Generously
“And she took it up and went into the city, and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also took it out and gave Naomi what she had left after she was satisfied.”
Freely we have received; freely give
C. (:19-20a) Bless Your Benefactors
“Her mother-in-law then said to her, ‘Where did you glean today and where did you work? May he who took notice of you be blessed.’ So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, ‘The name of the man with whom I worked today is Boaz.’ And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, ‘May he be blessed of the LORD who has not withdrawn his kindness to the living and to the dead.’”
Wiersbe: It is encouraging to see the changes that have taken place in Naomi because of what Ruth did. God used Ruth to turn Naomi’s bitterness into gratitude, her unbelief into faith, and her despair into hope. One person, trusting the Lord and obeying His will, can change a situation from defeat to victory.
D. (:20b) Appreciate Divine Providence – Divine Networking
“Again Naomi said to her, ‘The man is our relative, he is one of our closest relatives.’”
Here we see the identification of Boaz driven home to Ruth so she can fully appreciate what the Lord has been doing in the details of her situation
E. (:21-23a) Persevere in Your Labors – Work Smart
“Then Ruth the Moabitess said, ‘Furthermore, he said to me, You should stay close to my servants until they have finished all my harvest.’ And Naomi said to Ruth her daughter- in-law, ‘It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his maids, lest others fall upon you in another field.’ So she stayed close by the maids of Boaz in order to glean until the end of the barley harvest and the wheat harvest.”
Huey: The two harvest seasons would have lasted for about seven weeks (cf. Deut 16:9), normally from late April to early June.
Barley – March to April; Wheat – May to June or July
Tension – how would the women be provided for after the harvest season was over?
F. (:23b) Keep Your Relationship Commitments
“And she lived with her mother-in-law.”
Don’t change who you are; loyal devotion and commitment were Ruth’s marks of integrity
Deffinbaugh: What advice do I believe Ruth or Boaz would give to those who are single and hoping for marriage? Let me suggest several things.
First, the decisions you make before marriage will make all the difference in who you do marry. Ruth decided that following God was the most important decision she could ever make. She was not willing to marry a Moabite man, for he would undoubtedly worship the Moabite gods. Her decision to accompany Naomi to Israel, and to embrace Israel’s God as her own, paved the way for her to meet (and later to marry) Boaz.
Second, an unhealthy obsession to get married will get you into trouble; a decision to follow after God will save you from much trouble. I believe that Ruth assumed that in order to serve Naomi she would need to stay single. In the light of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7:29-35, she might have been right, except that God had other purposes in mind that Ruth did not know about at that moment in time. Setting your heart on serving God as a priority will help keep you from a sense of desperation concerning marriage. It will keep you content with being single, if need be for a lifetime. But it will also free you to serve others, and it may just be that in the midst of serving that you are led to someone who has a similar passion for serving God and others. I do not promise that serving God first and foremost will produce a life’s mate, but I am convinced that it will never keep you from the mate God has chosen for you.
Third, beware of shallow, superficial compatibility, and seek for the deepest levels of spiritual compatibility. Strive for godly character in God’s strength and then look for it in others. Seek to associate with those who share your passion for service. [Note: compatibility matching services such as eHarmony can never accomplish this adequately.]
Fourth, in those times when it may appear that there may never be a godly mate for you, dwell on the providential care which God has for His people. Naomi had given up all hope, but God was at work behind the scenes preparing great blessings for her.
Fifth, forsake the “it’s all about me” mindset, and recognize that it is all about God and the fulfillment of His purposes and promises. When we dwell on ourselves, we are destined for despair. When we dwell on God and on His purposes, we can be assured that He will do what He has promised.