We are currently studying the book of Ruth in a message series entitled “Rescued.” The book of Ruth took place during the time of the judges, written about in the book of Judges. As we go through this series, I am more and more convinced that America is living in a time very similar to the time of the judges. We’ll talk more about that in a few minutes.
In the first chapter of Ruth, we learned that Naomi and her husband left Judah because of a famine to live in the idol-worshipping country of Moab. While there Naomi’s two sons married pagan Moabite wives. Tragedy struck as Naomi’s husband and two sons both died, living no children. Naomi decided to return to Judah, as the famine was now over. Ruth choose to leave her home country and accompany her mother-in-law Naomi back to Judah and to serve the true God. However, upon arrival in Judah, Naomi was very discouraged and bitter about her difficulties in life. Both Naomi and Ruth were widows and widows had a very difficult time surviving with no husband or family to provide for them. Yet, at the end of the first chapter in Ruth, we see a sign of hope.
Ruth 1:22 (ESV) So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.
The barley harvest was beginning, the famine was over.
Today, my message is entitled “Finding Hope.” We’re going to learn how to find hope in God in difficult times. We are living in difficult times, times that parallel the times of the judges. The last verse in the book of Judges summarizes this period in history.
Judges 21:25b (ESV) Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
In other words, everyone followed their own standard of right and wrong, rather than God’s standard in His Word. When everyone does what is right in their own eyes, sin, violence, depravity and sexual perversion increase. On Friday, another school shooting, this time in Santa Fe Texas by a 17-year old wearing a t-shirt labeled “Born to Kill” with 10 dead. Teen suicide and attempted suicide rates have doubled in the last decade, according to a report this week. On Friday, I received a prayer-alert email from Thrive pro-life group that the Sisters of Satan were on the schedule in our state capital to pray curses over pro-life legislators. A pastor was recently labeled a religious bigot by a former Presidential candidate for saying that Jews, Muslims and Mormons were not saved, since they did not believe in Jesus.
Everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes. Yet, in the time of the judges and in our time, God always preserves a remnant of true believers. The remnant does what is right in God’s eyes and that is what the book of Ruth is all about. So, in our time and in our day, we need to find …
God’s providence is God’s sovereignty over all the circumstances and people in your life. Nothing happens without God knowing about it and being in control of it.
Ruth 2:1 (ESV) Now Naomi had a relative of her husband’s, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz.
Naomi had complained that God had made her life empty after the tragic deaths of her family members. Yet, as we’ll see, God was working in all the events and circumstances of her life. In this verse, we are introduced to a relative of her husband named Boaz. Boaz also lived in Bethlehem and was a worthy man, a man of strong character and belief in God. The lives of Boaz and Naomi were about to intersect by God’s providence.
Ruth 2:2 (ESV) And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.”
Now, Naomi seemed to still be overwhelmed with sorrow and despair. What could be done to provide for these two widows? Ruth decided to go to the fields of the barley harvest and see if she could glean grain. The Old Testament law had commanded farmers to allow the poor to glean grain from the edges of their fields. These was not a simple handout, for the poor would have to work hard in order to harvest the grain. So, Ruth, although a foreigner, a Moabite, decided to see if any farmer would give her permission to gather grain in his fields.
Ruth 2:3 (ESV) So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech.
As she was gleaning in the fields, this verse says that she happened to come to Boaz’s part of the field. But, we know that this was no accident, it was part of God’s providence. Even though Ruth had no idea who Boaz was or what field’s he owned, God led her to his field. And, as we’ll see, God’s providence in Ruth’s life would impact Naomi as well.
So, whatever difficulty you are facing in life, know that if you’re a believer, God is providentially working in the events surrounding your life. As you follow His direction as best you can, He will bring people and cause events to happen that are part of His master plan. So, don’t lose hope, hope in God’s providence, even though you can’t always see it working. Not only should we find hope in God’s providence, we should find …
Ruth 2:4 (ESV) And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The LORD be with you!” And they answered, “The LORD bless you.”
Not only is Boaz a worthy man of good character, we see in this verse that Boaz is a godly man, a believer. In his work, he blesses his reapers and they in turn bless him. Boaz then inquires about the new woman that is gleaning in his field.
Ruth 2:6-7 (ESV) And the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, “She is the young Moabite woman, who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.’ So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest.”
Boaz is then told the unusual news that this woman is not an Israelite, but a Moabite, who returned with Naomi from Moab. We learn that Ruth is a hard worker, who hasn’t stopped working until just before Boaz came. In fact, as we’ll see, Ruth was most likely intending on leaving Boaz’s field, but he arrived from Bethlehem just in time to notice her. All in God’s providence. So, not only does God orchestrate events, He also brings people together.
Oftentimes the hope that God desires to bring into our lives, does not come in a vacuum or come to us when we’re alone. Oftentimes, the hope that God brings comes through God’s people, through other believers. That’s just one of the reasons why God’s Word commands all believers to be committed to a local church. It is in the context of a committed church of believers, that you can be encouraged and receive God’s hope. Not only can you find hope in God’s people, you can find …
Ruth 2:8-9 (ESV) Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.”
What seems to have happened is that the reapers in Boaz’s field were harassing Ruth in some way. Perhaps because she was from Moab or possibly because she was a woman alone. Ruth was looking to move to another field to escape the harassment. Boaz encourages her to stay in his field and to keep with the other women. Boaz has instructed the other young men not to harass her in any way. He gives her permission to drink from the water vessels, rather than having to draw her own water. Ruth then asks Boaz why he is treating her so kindly, since she is a foreigner.
Ruth 2:11-12 (ESV) But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!”
Boaz has heard very good things about Ruth. She has cared for her mother-in-law Naomi, leaving her home country and coming to a foreign land. And most importantly, Ruth had given up the worship of idols and had become a believer in the Lord, the God of Israel. She had found protection under the care of the Lord, through the kindness of Boaz.
The world in the time of the judges was a violent and evil place. And so is our country, a violent and evil place. Sometimes, we may think that nothing could ever touch us. Yet, we are not able to protect ourselves from the evil in our world. Yes, we should take prudent precautions in life, but we need God’s protection. We need to find that protection under his wings. So, we find God’s protection when we are living close to him. We find God’s protection when we are committed to a church of God’s people. If we stray from God, if we engage in habitual sin, if we are not fully committed to our church, we remove ourselves from that protection. God protects those who walk in His ways, as Ruth did. Next, we can find …
Ruth 2:14-15 (ESV) And at mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her.
Boaz’s kindness to Ruth continues. He invites her to sit with him and the reapers, a place that gleaners were never invited to. After the meal he instructs the reapers to let her glean among the sheaves, the harvested crops. In fact, in the next verse, he instructs his workers to pull grain out of the sheaves for Ruth to take. Through Boaz’s generosity, God was providing, not only for Ruth but for Naomi as well.
Ruth 2:17 (ESV) So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley.
An ephah was about 15 liters of barley, which was enough to feed Ruth and Naomi for a week. As Ruth gleaned until the end of the harvest, at this rate, she would have gleaned enough to feed them for an entire year. This was an amazing provision for two widows with no means of livelihood. Ruth brought the barley home to Naomi, who is amazed at how much food she had brought. Ruth tells Naomi that she has gleaned in the field of Boaz, not having any idea who he was. Naomi is beginning to realize that God is working in their lives as she finds hope in God’s provision.
When you’re walking with God, when you’re obeying God’s Word, God will provide for you. But we must realize that God’s provision for Ruth and Naomi did not happen until Ruth went out to the fields and began to work. God will provide, but we must also work with the strength He has given us. Not only was Ruth working, but she also was providing for her mother-in-law. She was going to give some of what she earned to someone else. So, too, as we are generous with what God entrusts to us, both in giving to His church and to others, God will provide for all of our needs. Not only can we find hope in God’s provision, we can lastly find …
Ruth 2:20 (ESV) And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed by the LORD, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.”
Now, Naomi reveals to Ruth who Boaz is. Boaz was relative on Naomi’s husband’s side. That made him one of their redeemers. What is a redeemer in the Old Testament? A kinsman-redeemer was the nearest adult male blood relative to a needy person, in this case Naomi, whose husband had died. The redeemer had the responsibility to redeem or buy back the land of the needy. The redeemer also had the responsibility of providing for the needy person by marrying the wife of the deceased. However, Naomi had multiple redeemers, as we’ll see as the story continues next week. God had an incredible plan, that involved Naomi, Ruth and Boaz. A plan that impacts you and I today. A plan that involved a redeemer in the time of Ruth making way for the ultimate Redeemer, Jesus Christ to be born. We can find hope in God’s plan for His kingdom and our part in that plan.
God’s plan for your life is so much bigger than simply going to school, getting a job, getting married, working, retiring and going to heaven. All the things I mentioned are important, very important in fact. However, God’s plan for your life has eternal significance. As you go about the normal aspects of life, God has a way of bringing about incredible things. In our story, God’s plan has brought together an older Jewish widow, a young Moabite widow and a godly Jewish bachelor, all for eternal purposes. Don’t think you know all about God’s plan for your life. You don’t. There will be surprises, challenges and miracles all along the way. Just believe in the plan, follow God’s leading and wonderful things will happen.
I encourage you this week, to read the first two chapters of Ruth or better yet the entire book of Ruth, all four chapters. The story begins in tragedy, but we’re beginning to see great signs of hope in the second chapter. Whatever you’re going through in life right now, God wants you to find hope in Him this morning. God is working in your life in mysterious ways. He is working to give you opportunities to walk with Him, following His wonderful plan. You can find hope this morning, by surrendering to His plan and providence. You will never find a better plan for your life than His.