We are studying the book of Ruth in a message series called “Rescued.” We’re learning how to live faithfully for God in a culture that is spiraling downward away from God. Ruth takes place in the time of the judges, which is much like our time today.
Judges 21:25b (ESV) Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
Yet, the book of Ruth shows us how God had a plan for a remnant of faithful believers, just as He does today. In the first chapter of Ruth, we meet Naomi, who moved with her family to the pagan country of Moab because of famine. While in Moab, her husband and two sons died. One of her son’s wives, Ruth accompanied Naomi back to Judah and became a believer in the Lord. In the 2nd chapter of Ruth, Ruth went to work gleaning grain in the fields. While working, she met another believer, Boaz, who was kind and generous to her. We saw God at work behind the scenes, caring for Naomi and Ruth and providing for them. Yet, they were still alone, two widows, one older and another younger.
Ruth 2:23 (ESV) So she kept close to the young women of Boaz, gleaning until the end of the barley and wheat harvests. And she lived with her mother-in-law.
So the food problem had been taken care of, but the two widows were still living alone with no one to provide or care for them.
Today, my message is entitled “Courage Rewarded.” What do you do when life is tough and you’re not sure what God’s will is? How do you discern God’s plan and follow it?
Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV) Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
God’s Word here tells us that when we trust in the Lord, He will direct our steps and lead us in the right path. To trust the Lord and not lean on our own understanding takes courage. It takes courage to follow God’s plan for your life. Why? Because God rarely lays out your future in great detail. Most often, He simply shows you the next step. It takes courage to take that next step, because you don’t know what is going to come next. So, courage and faith are closely related.
Hebrews 11:6 (ESV) And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
As we have faith and courage to seek God, we must believe that we will be rewarded. So, today, we’re going to look at the kinds of courage that God rewards.
Our story today begins with Naomi giving Ruth a plan, a wise but dangerous plan.
Ruth 3:2-3 (ESV) Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.
The barley harvest was coming to an end and Boaz was working into the evening. Naomi was led by the Lord to come up with a wise match-making plan for Boaz and Ruth. Boaz was a godly, older bachelor and Ruth was a godly, younger widow. Naomi knew that Ruth needed a husband. So, she gave instructions to Ruth. Undoubtedly until this point, Ruth was probably dressed as a widow in mourning. Yet, now, she was to prepare herself to no longer being viewed as mourning. She was not to interrupt Boaz in the middle of his work, but only at the end of the day. Boaz would spend the night at the threshing floor in order to protect the grain harvest from any thieves.
Ruth 3:4 (ESV) But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down, and he will tell you what to do.”
This is a bit strange for us today. However, this was a custom of that time of requesting marriage. We’ll see more about this in the next few verses. Naomi was using her God-given wisdom to counsel Ruth. She knew the character of both Ruth and Naomi, she knew the customs of the day and she knew the biblical duties of a redeemer. So, she came up with a plan. The plan was risky. What if Boaz, a wealthy, powerful, older landowner had no interest in a poor, Moabite widow? What if he mistook her actions as morally inappropriate? What if others saw what she was doing and spread rumors?
It always takes courage and faith to carry out God’s plan for your life. Oftentimes, God will use other people to show us His plan for us. If you’re facing some kind of difficulty in your life, God has a course of action for you to take. He has a plan for you to follow, but it’s going to take courage. The wisdom that you need to discover and follow God’s plan comes from a number of sources. First of all, we get wisdom from God’s Word, as we’ll see in the next point. Secondly, we need the wisdom of other believers. Then we simply need to step out in faith, trusting God’s plan. Next we need …
In other words, wisdom comes from God’s Word and everything that God speaks to us, whether through the Holy Spirit or other people, must line up with God’s Word.
Ruth 3:6 (ESV) So she went down to the threshing floor and did just as her mother-in-law had commanded her.
Ruth followed her mother-in-law’s instructions exactly. She waited until Boaz laid down to sleep on the threshing floor, then uncovered his feet and lay down next to him. In the middle of the night, Boaz woke startled to see a woman lying at his feet.
Ruth 3:9 (ESV) He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.”
Ruth humbly answers Boaz, by referring to herself as his servant. Then she addresses him as her redeemer and asks him to marry her. In Ruth 2:12, Boaz had spoken that Ruth had taken refuge under the wings of the Lord. Now Ruth was requesting Boaz to be her protector and husband. Boaz was a redeemer for Naomi, as he was a close male relative of her deceased husband. As Naomi was too old to have children, she could not be the one to be married and keep the family line going. Therefore, Ruth was asking Boaz, as a redeemer to marry her, redeem the family’s land and marry her. What was the basis for the whole idea of the redeemer? It was written in God’s Word, in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Naomi’s plan and Ruth’s courage were based on God’s Word.
In order to discern God’s will and follow His plan, we need to know God’s Word. Oftentimes, God gives us our next step in His plan, but we need to know the principles of God’s Word to carry out that step properly. Sometimes people get in trouble by following God’s plan but not with the truth of God’s Word in their actions and attitudes. As a believer, you need to know God’s Word, from Genesis to Revelation. Listening on Sunday morning is essential, but you need to study God’s Word on your own each and every day. It will give you the understanding and courage to follow God’s plan.
As you follow God’s plan with courage, there will be temptations. Temptations come from Satan, our enemy, to get us off track, even as we are following God’s plan. Purity is having the courage to say no to temptation and keep ourselves pure in thought and actions.
Ruth 3:10 (ESV) And he said, “May you be blessed by the LORD, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich.
God’s plans are always win-win for everyone who is following the Lord. Boaz immediately recognized the Lord’s hand in Ruth’s marriage proposal, as unique as it was. Boaz’s words make it clear that he was an older man, much older than Ruth. Yet, God’s plan was to bless both Ruth and Boaz in the marriage. Boaz could have taken advantage of the two of them being alone at night at the threshing floor, but he didn’t. He remained pure, as did Ruth.
Ruth 3:11 (ESV) And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman.
Boaz then gave Ruth his word, that he would follow through on her request. Despite Ruth being a younger, poor Moabite widow, she was a worthy woman. In Boaz’s eyes, her faith in God and character were the most important qualities.
Ruth 3:12 (ESV) And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I.
Another twist in the story. This other redeemer could redeem Ruth if he so chose, but he was not obligated to. Boaz indicated that if the other redeemer did not redeem Ruth, he would. Again, we see the pure courage and integrity of Boaz in his words and decisions.
As we follow God’s plan for our lives, God desires for us to do so with integrity and purity. Satan will always attack with temptations to distract you from God’s plan. For those of you who are single, as Ruth and Boaz were, God desires for you to stay pure until marriage, pure in action and in thought. Sometimes in following God’s plan you may be tempted to not act with integrity. Boaz could have chosen not to tell Ruth about the other redeemer, but he did tell her. He had faith that if this marriage was meant to be, God would work things out. So, we must always tell the truth and speak with integrity as we follow God’s plan.
The next morning when they awoke, Boaz showed his love and kindness to Ruth
Ruth 3:15 (ESV) And he said, “Bring the garment you are wearing and hold it out.” So she held it, and he measured out six measures of barley and put it on her. Then she went into the city.
Throughout this story, we see the remnant of believers showing love and kindness to one another, Naomi, Ruth and Boaz. Even as a very unlikely plan of the Lord unfolds, no one tries to run ahead of God or lag behind. Here we see Boaz again being generous in giving an unexpected gift to Ruth. God’s plan always involve people. And He desires us to show His love to everyone.
In the book of Ruth, there are no villains. All of the three main characters are lovers of God with exemplary characters, although certainly not perfect. In life, nobody is perfect. Even believers have flaws and sins, including those that God has brought into your life in one way or another. We must seek to show God’s love to everyone, no matter who the person is. Jesus commanded us to forgive everyone, to pray for and bless even our enemies. As you follow God’s plan for your life, seek to show His love to everyone you meet.
Ruth returned to her home with Naomi and told her everything that had happened between her and Boaz. She also showed her the barley that Boaz had given to her to take to Naomi. Naomi responded …
Ruth 3:18 (ESV) She replied, “Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest but will settle the matter today.”
God’s plan is moving forward, Naomi and Ruth have done their part by acting courageously. Yet, everything could fall through this day. The other redeemer could redeem and marry Ruth. We have no indication of the character or godliness of this other redeemer. So, Naomi’s instructions to Ruth are to wait, to be patient. The next steps in the story, in God’s plan, are out of their control. They can pray, but they must be patient and wait. Naomi is confident that Boaz will move quickly to address the issue with the other redeemer that very day. In following God’s plan, there is a time for action and there is a time for patience. There are times for action and there are times to simply pray.
In following God’s plan for your life, there will be times when you want things to move more quickly, but God simply wants you to wait on Him. In God’s plan, you have a part to play and God has a part to play. It’s not one or the other, God works together with people to carry out His plans. To wait patiently for God to move is to have faith that His plan will be carried out. There is a time to quietly rest and let God and others do their parts in the plan. Sometimes, we get all stressed out when things don’t happen as quickly as we would like. Remember, that if it’s God’s plan, it will be fulfilled in His time. Courage must be patient.
In Ruth chapter 3, we see great progress in God’s plan for Ruth and Naomi’s lives. Naomi has come up with a plan with God’s help. Ruth has had the courage to execute the plan, again with God’s help. Boaz has been sensitive to God and recognized God at work in Ruth’s proposal. Each of these three main characters has shown great courage in following this plan of God. Despite the risks of something going terribly wrong. We won’t see their courage rewarded until the final chapter in the book of Ruth, chapter four next Sunday. Each of us is in the middle of God’s plan for our lives. Quite frankly, we won’t see the complete reward until we meet Jesus face to face in heaven. Yet, God will give us victories as we follow His plan for our lives with courage. As you seek to follow God, He will reward you both in this life and the next. May this story in Ruth motivate us to keep trusting God for our lives as well.