Last week we began in Ruth chapter one and got a glimpse of two women in similar circumstances but with very difficult different attitudes about their circumstances. Both had lost their husbands. The older lady, Naomi, had also lost her sons. Nevertheless, both were grieving. Noami chose to become bitter and blame God for her losses. Her daughter-in-law, Ruth, a Moabite who had not learned the Scriptures or experienced a relationship with the Covenant-keeping God chose a better way, the way of trust in God.
Even though Naomi was bitter, she had enough of her wits about her to realize that she couldn’t stay in the foreign place where her family had gone to escape a famine. She couldn’t provide for herself in Moab. She needed to go back to Bethlehem, back home where she could count on the mercy of God’s people to see her through her time of grief and crises. Ruth joined her on the journey and when she did, she made the declaration that Naomi’s God was going to be her God. Ruth, an outsider, was going to commit to the God the Jews worshipped. So off they sent to Bethlehem.
Ruth 2:1-12 1 Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, from the clan of Elimelech, a man of standing, whose name was Boaz. 2 And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.” Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter.” 3 So she went out and began to glean in the fields behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech.
4 Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The LORD be with you!” “The LORD bless you!” they called back. 5 Boaz asked the foreman of his harvesters, “Whose young woman is that?” 6 The foreman replied, “She is the Moabitess who came back from Moab with Naomi.7 She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.’ She went into the field and has worked steadily from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.”
8 So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with my servant girls. 9 Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the girls. I have told the men not to touch you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.”
10 At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She exclaimed, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me–a foreigner?” 11 Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband–how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. 12 May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”
Today I want to talk to you about the things Ruth learned once she got to Bethlehem:
1. Before you have a need, God has an answer.
Ruth and Naomi got to Bethlehem, but what next? They needed food. Ruth’s plan was to go into the fields behind those who were collecting the harvest and to pick up whatever they left behind or dropped in haste. Compare it to modern day dumpster diving, I guess. However, we throw things away because we have too much of something or don’t want something anymore. That wasn’t what was happening with the harvesters dropping and leaving food behind. They were doing what God had instructed them to do long before Naomi and Ruth came to town.
When God gave Moses some laws in Leviticus 19:9-10, He told him to tell the Israelite people when they went into the fields to collect the harvest they weren’t supposed to go to the very edges. They were to skip the edges. When they were harvesting grapes in a vineyard, they weren’t allowed to go through the field twice, and they weren’t allowed to pick up grapes that had fallen on the ground. No. The produce around the edges and the leftover and fallen grapes were for the poor and the alien to collect. Ruth was an alien in Bethlehem. She was from Moab. She also qualified to pick up the fallen and leftover grain because she was a widow. Deuteronomy 24:19-22 outlines how widows and orphans were also allowed to go into the fields to pick up what they needed.
What this story in Ruth 2 teaches us is that God is always at work ahead of our needs. He anticipates what will happen to us in life. Rather than blame God for the bad things that happen to us which He isn’t responsible for anyway (which I explained last week) let’s rejoice that He has a plan to bring us through those bad times because He knows about them ahead of time.
Not only had God made provision for Naomi and Ruth through the laws of Israel, but He also had a way of getting them an audience with someone who could help. In verse 11 Boaz told Ruth that he had already heard about her. He heard of her sacrifice, how she had left her homeland to accompany Naomi and support her. He heard of her faith and how she had chosen to worship the one, true Living God. He wasn’t only aware of her need, but he was impressed by her faith and courage.
God has a way of connecting us with people who can help us, and when we already have the reputation that we are people who do the hard thing and the right thing and the selfless thing, like Ruth had done, we are received favorably by other people. So, God was already working ahead of Ruth by getting word to Boaz that she was a special lady.
Isn’t God good? He says of Himself in Isaiah 65:24, “Before they call I will answer.”
You and I are prone to worry, doubt, and fear because we live in the present. One common question you and I share in tough times is probably, “What am I going to do now?” “How will I cope with life in the midst of my loss, pain, and sickness?” All we can filter through our minds is what is part of our current understanding and experience. However, God dwells in eternity beyond time constraints. He is past, present, and future all at the same time. That’s why He can say in Jeremiah 29:11, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you a hope and a future.” This minute God is standing in your future. He’s already there. Before you have need of Him, He is providing for you. Before you call to Him, He has worked out answers. Rather than ask, “What am I going to do now?” ask, “God what are you already doing for me? Show me. Help me to see what You are up to.”
I know it can seem like things aren’t going to work out. Current circumstances can prevent us from seeing how our longings, dreams, and desires could ever come to pass, but you have to trust the God who stands in your future. He is orchestrating His will to occur at specific, strategic moments in your life. When Ruth was at her life-long low God was preparing her for a wonderful new high, a brand new start and new life in Him. Ruth learned God was always ten steps ahead of her need.
Second, Ruth learned:
2. There is nothing random in the lives of God’s people.
Verse 3 of today’s text tells us as it turned out, Ruth found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech. When you read the verse it is easy to draw a conclusion that Ruth was just lucky. She was just in the right place at the right time. She just randomly, happened to pick the field of someone wonderful, someone God-fearing, and someone who happened to be related to her late father-in-law.
Let me be emphatic. God is a God of purpose. He can never be random. There is always a will, always a trajectory, always a plan, always a bigger picture, always a place or experience we are moving toward that is part of a grand design. Yes, we make choices. Yes, we have free will. But God has ways to move us into places and spaces when we yield to Him that have nothing to do with our choices, but rather are the result of His promptings and sovereignty in our lives.
Let me try to unpack that word, “sovereignty.” God is sovereign which means that nothing happens without His promptings or permission. When we follow His promptings, we are in His will and working with God to accomplish His purpose. When God permits us to make choices and do things outside of His will, He can redeem them and still accomplish His purpose. In short, when we get it right God is sovereign. When we get it wrong, God is sovereign. He stands over our lives and works things out for us whether we have gotten a lot right or a little right, that is if we are willing to allow Him to be our God as Ruth did.
I like the way the Living Bible puts Romans 8:28. 28 And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans. Ruth thought she was just heading out to secure some food, but because she was already committed to God, she was in His hands and therefore was fitting into His plans.
It is easy to accept the good things God is working in our lives when they are the result of good things, things we enjoy, things we can celebrate or smile about. But when God desires to work something good out of something bad it is more difficult to want to trust Him or recognize His goodness, but Ruth did. That leads me to the third thing Ruth learned in Bethlehem:
3. God’s grace is available in every circumstance.
This is a beautiful story of the grace of God in so many respects. In Ruth 2:2 we see Ruth knew about the importance of grace. She called it favor. She told her mother-in-law she was going to go and glean in the fields of whomever she found favor. Grace is unmerited favor. Ruth knew she needed favor with someone in order to have food to eat.
She went looking for favor. She went in search of grace, and she wasn’t disappointed. Ruth 2:10 says she ran into favor with a man named Boaz. Read it with me. At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She exclaimed, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me–a foreigner?”
Ruth recognized what was being done for her as Boaz told her to join his servant girls. She knew it was what she didn’t deserve. She knew it was simply the favor of Boaz. He told the men who were harvesting not to touch Ruth and in so doing assured her safety. He was kind to her and spoke kindly to her. He told her to get water whenever she needed it. He reassured her that it was okay for her to glean in his field. She was grateful. She knew she was an outsider. She knew she didn’t have status in his family. She knew he was going out of his way to assist her and meet her needs. She called that favor. She recognized that grace.
How often do we fail to recognize the grace of God at work in our lives? Are we aware of what God is doing for us every day? Are we responding in humility and with a thankful heart? Does our awareness of God’s grace endear us to Him even more?
There is nothing more generous about God than His grace. It is as wide as His love, yet many will never experience it. Hebrews 12:15 says, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” This verse tells me not everyone will recognize God’s grace. Not everyone will receive it. Not everyone will be saved through it. This scripture about missing God’s grace is connected in this verse to bitterness. When we are bitter, we miss the grace of God. I believe anger, resentment, and bitterness will keep many from heaven.
How many of us who have been saved by God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8) are aware of the grace He daily gives us? We have the favor of God. We have favor with God. God is causing us to triumph. He is setting us up for success. He is enacting blessings on us as we follow Him. He is dispensing power in us. He is talking to the powers of darkness on our behalf and telling Satan to take his paws off of us. He is routing our enemies before us. That is favor! Do you see it? Are you glad for it?
Ruth understood that she not only needed grace to glean behind the harvesters, but she also needed ongoing grace to be established in Bethlehem. She said to Boaz in verse 13: “May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord,” she said. “You have given me comfort and have spoken kindly to your servant–though I do not have the standing of one of your servant girls.” Oh, how she needed the ongoing grace of Boaz. Oh, how you and I need the ongoing grace of God to saturate our lives!
I want to mention three more things about grace:
It is delivered by God Himself. Before Ruth ever saw Boaz or could learn about him, he saw her. Verse 5 says he took notice of her and started asking about her. How did Ruth find out she was in Boaz’s field? He came to her. He introduced himself to her. He took the initiative to talk to her. He was proactive. He started the conversation.
Listen, Boaz in this passage is a type of God Himself. He has taken the initiative with us. When we were spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-10) he got the ball rolling for us to receive grace. When we were without strength (Romans 5:6) He started the conversation. When we were powerless to do anything about our spiritual poverty, He enacted His plan. When we were still sinners (Romans 5:8) Jesus Christ, His Son, hung on an instrument of torture to make sure we could have unbroken access to the grace of God. When we were still considered enemies of God (Rom. 5:10) He came near! God’s overtures towards us in Christ are like a flashing light spelling out G-R-A-C-E in huge letters across our lives. If you are keeping track of all of my crazy definitions, write this one down as a definition for grace: Grace is the generosity of God poured out through the blood of Christ.
Let me back up my definition with Ephesians 2:6-7 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Because of God’s grace we get all kinds of things we didn’t earn and don’t deserve! Ephesians 1:3 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”
Another thing about grace to note:
It is specific. You need get-through-today grace, He has it. You need grieving grace. You can receive it. You need dealing with a co-worker grace, God will supply it. You need get one child to track, another child to dance, all while making dinner for everyone and squeezing in a hospital visit grace, I can testify He has it to give! God’s grace is tailor-made to fit your circumstance.
Ruth needed two things immediately: Food and protection while she was collecting it. Boaz promised her both. He not only promised both, but he ensured both.
The last thing I’ll mention about grace is that:
It is sufficient (II Cor. 12:9). It will be enough. It will be complete. It will convince you of God’s goodness and love. It will make you thankful, just like Ruth was. God didn’t just lead any old person to connect with Ruth. No! It was Boaz, the owner of the field, the “Lord of the Harvest” if you will. He had the authority to give commands about her and to make promises toward her.
Listen, you and I are in a relationship with Jesus, the Lord of the Harvest, as He is called in Matt. 9:38. Like Boaz, He determines what happens with His resources, and He is generously predisposed towards you and me. Hallelujah! Put this Scripture on your refrigerator or card dashboard! It is truth to encourage you to today: “And God is able to make ALL GRACE abound to you, so that in ALL THINGS at all times, HAVING ALL that you need, you will abound in every good work.”2 Corinthians 9:8 God is our all in all, and He has it all going on, and He has it all to give! Whoever said you could have it all wasn’t kidding when it comes to the grace of God.
Let me plant this thought in your mind about the sufficiency of God’s grace as an ongoing experience in the lives of His people. Ruth gathered about a half bushel of grain in that dumpster diving encounter. That was a “firstfruits,” just a sampling, just a taste, just an initial deposit, if you will, of things to come as we will see next week.
The same is true of us as God’s children. God has deposited His Holy Spirit in us as a “firstfruits” of all God has promised to do for us as we stay in this grace relationship with Him (Rom. 8:23). There is more! There is more! There is more for us to experience. This is a life-long relationship. This is to be a relationship whereby we receive daily grace to enable us to experience our best possible life.
Ruth wasn’t the only person to benefit from Boaz’s favor in chapter two. Naomi was going to be touched as well. She was back home, back in the right place, but she still had a bitter attitude. She was still blaming God for her circumstances. However, receiving grace caused a transformation in the way she was looking at her life.
Look at verses Ruth 2:19-20 19 Her mother-in-law asked her, “Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you!” Then Ruth told her mother-in-law about the one at whose place she had been working. “The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz,” she said. 20 “The LORD bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers.”
Two times Naomi spoke words of blessing! Quite a change from the woman who only had bitter words in the chapter before. The grace of God comes to even those who have blamed God and held God hostage in their pain, and is a gift of healing to move them from bitterness to a place where they can again bless others. That’s one of the neatest things about the power of God’s grace. When we truly receive it, like Ruth did, it spills out through our lives into the lives of those who maybe need it even more than we did!
The grace that came to Naomi that day came in the form of hope. For the first time since the passing of her husband and sons she could see beyond her pain. She could picture a future.
Ruth accomplished so much more than scoring food and making Boaz’s heart flutter which we will learn about next week. She had done what she said she desired to do in chapter one. Naomi’s God was going to be her God. I close with Ruth 2:12 “May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” It was because Naomi was under the wings of God, under His refuge, seeking to be in His care that she learned and was impacted by all she learned in Bethlehem. Where are you today? What or who is your refuge? How are you being provided for and protected? What grace can you claim? Today is a day for all of us to make sure we are connected to the One who sees the big picture, the One who can transform our pain, and the One who can take us into a better future.