Trusting in God No Matter What!
WODONGA BAPTIST CHURCH
Sunday 9 & 11am, 18th March 2007 Trusting God No Matter What Ruth 2
Many people look at the events and circumstances in their lives and treat them as though they are just accidents, just chance. In fact, the following quotes are actual statements from insurance forms where car drivers tried to summarise accident details in as fewer words as possible. They were reported on Toronto News.
“Coming home I drove into the wrong house and collided with a tree I don’t have.”
“I collided with a stationary truck coming the other way.”
“In my attempt to kill a fly, I drove into a telephone pole.”
“I had been driving for 40 years when I fell asleep at the wheel and had an accident.”
“A pedestrian hit me and went under my car.”
“The pedestrian had no idea which way to run, so I ran over him.”
“I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law, and headed over the embankment.”
I wonder how many of the things that happen in our lives are accidents? Or could it be that God is at work in our circumstances. Do things really happen for a reason?
In 1858, a Sunday school teacher named Mr Kimble led a Boston shoe clerk to give his life to Jesus. The clerk was D L Moody who, after becoming a Christian in that Sunday school class, became a great evangelist. In 1879, while he was preaching in the heart of England, a pastor who was named F B Myer found his heart caught fire. He later came to America, to college campuses and he began to preach all over college campuses and under his preaching, a student by the name of Wilbur Chapman was saved. He engaged in YMCA work and employed a former baseballer named Billy Sunday to actually do the evangelistic work. Billy Sunday held a revival in Charlotte, North Carolina. Because of the revival and because it stirred the hearts of many, some 30 businessmen wanted to devote a day of prayer at Charlotte. In May 1934, a farmer lent the men some land to use for their prayer meeting. The leader of the businessmen, Vernon Patterson prayed out of Charlotte the Lord would raise up someone to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth. The businessmen then called for another evangelistic meeting asking Mordechai Ham, a fiery southern evangelist who shattered the complacency of the churchgoing people in Charlotte. The farmer who lent his land the prayer meeting was Franklin Graham and his son, Billy, became a Christian during that meeting. What a coincidence. I wonder if that Sunday school teacher would ever have known the impact of what it was in bringing that young boy to the Lord. Billy Graham has turned out to preach and to save so many people's lives. Coincidence? I don't think so, I think when we stop to think more and more about the things that happen in our lives we realise that God is working in ways that would astound us.
Can you remember last week when we looked at Ruth? She and Naomi were in terrible circumstances and on the road Ruth’s sister-in-law Orpah realises how terrible the circumstances are and realises it’s going to be much better for her to go back to Moab and she left. But the Bible says that Ruth clung to Naomi, she made up her mind that no matter what would happen she would stay with Naomi. She said “Where you go I will go, where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God my God” and she made an oath she said “May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me”, and she turned and together they walked into Bethlehem.
And remember Naomi's speech as she got to that place? The people rejoiced and said welcome, she said “Don't call me Naomi any more call me bitter because the Lord has gone against me. I’ve lost my husband I’ve lost my two sons, now I have nothing”.
But remember the hope that was seen at the very end of chapter 1 in verse 22. “So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.” So God had been making the house of bread a house of bread again and he had been showing favour on his people in the land of Bethlehem and so what happened all of a sudden the crops started to grow, and just coincidence, or, as might happen, they returned back to Bethlehem just at the time when harvest is taking place.
And verse 1 of chapter 2 begins, “Now Naomi had a relative”. Oh a relative, what's happening here? And it was “on her husband's side, from the clan of Elimelch, a man of standing whose name was Boaz.” You see, Naomi thought she had lost everything but here’s a little hint that something might happen for the reader. She has a relative who is a man of standing. Take notice of it, maybe hang it there on a little peg at the side of your mind.
So Naomi was bitter, desperate, feeling like she had nothing at all that was any good, and while that happened they came back to Bethlehem. Ruth's attitude is completely different though. Have a look at what happened. In verses 2 to 3 Ruth works hard making the most of whatever little she has.
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.
She trusts, “I’ve made a commitment to follow Naomi, I've made a commitment to follow her God, I'm here in a foreign land even though it’s very dangerous for me to go out on the fields at harvest time, I’m going to do what I can.” She knows that there are men all around and that she’s a foreigner from Moab, the enemy, and that Israelite people don't like people from Moab and that she’ll be vulnerable and won't know anyone. She says to herself, “Even if there are dangers, Naomi and I are going to starve. And I'm trusting in God and I'm going to make the best of the circumstances I possibly can.” She doesn't sit back and say “The circumstances aren’t right, it’s too dangerous, the works too hard.” She doesn’t whine, complain or make excuses… she went out – vulnerable, doing lowly work, but trusting in God completely.
Do you know, at harvest time what would happen - the crops would grow up, and the harvesters would come out. Usually they were men. Big strong men. And they would have a sickle and they would chop the harvest, the wheat. Whatever the harvesters left behind would be picked up by some women. Some of the ones that were employed and were well-known and may’ve been part of the family and they would come through and pick up the grain and bind it into sheaves. After that gleaning would take place and this involved gathering the stalks that had been left behind. This would be undertaken by whoever needed food, as the Bible had instructed earlier in Leviticus, God had said
9 " 'When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 19:9-10
So what would happen is then people would come and glean from the little that was left over and take what they can. So Naomi and Ruth realised that there was nothing that they could do, so they had to go on the generosity of those who are already had stacks and hope that someone would let them glean at least in the field and that while they were gleaning they might find some people who might generously leave some behind. You don’t get much lower than gleaning. You know, Ruth could have said a lot of things. She could have said Naomi, my husband died too, I’m from another land, you’re supposed to be looking after me, here I’ve come with you, what mess have you got me into. She could have said, gleaning? What are you talking about? I’m beautiful, I’m young, as if I’m going to go gleaning. It’s below me, you won’t catch me gleaning in the fields. She could have said, God hates Naomi, she even said so herself, and He’s got it in for us, let’s just sit here and mope. She could have blamed God, she could have got bitter at Him, she could have done all those things. But she didn’t, she believed that the God that she trusted in would be able to get her out of even this impossible situation. And she was willing to even glean to do it.
There are many people who say “I want to serve the Lord” and someone says well how about you do this little thing… “oh no, I want to serve the Lord, anything but that”, what about helping with washing up, cleaning the church, joining a small group…We kind of think we know what ways God is going to work in our lives, don’t we? And they tend to be the more things that are valuable, or recognised often. But do know what I find? I find that God uses people that glean. I find God uses people who do the very ordinary things, faithfully and with all their heart and God comes along and says “I’m going to provide for you in the most amazing way”. I remember, a friend of mine telling me this story of this Christian film he had seen. In the film this man really believes God’s got something incredible in his life. “He’s going to use me in a great way” and throughout the film this younger guy came up to him and said, “Excuse me could you spend some time with me I’m really struggling?” and he said, “No look its all right, I’ll tell you what, I haven’t got time, God is going to use me in a huge way, come back later on. God is going to use me, He’s got something big in store, I know it.” And the movie went on a bit more, and then the boy came up again and he said, “Look, can you help me? Can you help me? I got some things I really want to discuss?” And he said, “Look I would love to, but God’s going to use me in big way and I’m working on this”…and at the end of the film the man came before God and he said, that one who’s been tugging at your shirt was the one that I wanted to use in a great way and use you through him, but you missed the opportunity. Can’t remember what film it was, or where it was, but it was a good point. Because sometimes we think that God wants to use us in a big way we avoid the way in which he is just wanting to use us right now in the very ordinary things. God wants us to be faithful with what we have now not waiting for the things we don’t have before we act.
Do you know, in 1Samuel 17 there is an incredible picture of what we’re talking about here in Ruth. You might like to turn to that, if you will. Right through this chapter we find David who’s coming to the field where the Israelites are facing the Philistines, and every day Goliath comes out and says “come on, anybody who’s got any guts” and David’s brothers are just cowering, they don’t know what to do! And David comes onto the field and he gives some food to his brothers and if we have a look at about verse 29, just before that David was asking people, what’s going on? And the brothers say “why have you come down here?” and an in verse 29 he says
“Now what have I done? Can’t I even speak? He then turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter, and the men answered him as before. What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him. David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine, your servant will go and fight him.” Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth.” But David said to Saul (and listen the way David’s been faithful in the small things), he said “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”
Did you notice that? Being a shepherd, it was gleaning, it was like being left out there, all the others had the glory jobs they were going to war and they had their armour on and there were talking about it with their mates, it was exciting, war. And yet David was not sitting on the side of the mountains and saying, “Oh sheep, I wish I had at least some bulls or something meaningful in my life.” He was not complaining. What he was doing was protecting the sheep. There were shepherds in those times that would just let the wild animals run off with the sheep. “Hey, I’m a shepherd but boy, don’t ask me to risk my life for these sheep. Weigh it up, a sheep? Me? I’m not messing with no bear!” David didn’t do that, he poured all his energy into what the Lord had given him and he saw God use him and when he came face-to-face with a Philistine, no question, I’ve taken on bears I can take on this guy. God’s been using me in the small things, I’m ready just to take this lion. And he did! He killed Goliath and this was the beginnings of God’s raising him to be king.
Don’t go going for the big things all the time. Don’t think that God wants to use you for massive things without using the first in the faithful servant service. I found that with me, I just did what I was given to do and when people offered and asked more things I was just so thankful of those opportunities and I found more and more things that God would have me do and I just found it, keep faithful. And you never once get to the point where you think “boy, isn’t this incredible, look how great I am?” But its keeping on faith the small things. That's what Ruth did, got up in the morning, in a land where she was in a foreign place, she had nothing going for her she risked everything but she got out and she started doing what she could in her situation.
I wonder, what are you doing in the midst of your challenges? It could be, that 20 years ago, something wounded you so bad that you never gotten over it to this day. It may be that something happened that made you withdraw from trusting God any more. Perhaps you feel He let you down in that situation and you could never really trust Him again and may be that’s stopped you right since then. It seems that the start of this chapter Naomi was in that way, paralysed by fear, by guilt, paralysed by the situation. It may be for you that you have some kind of sin that just keeps tripping you up all the time, over and over and over again. The number of times people will say ‘I just can't seem to overcome this area of my life, Jonathan, this area of struggle’ and then when they are encouraged to take a grip, it's too hard because they want to get there the easy way rather than the faithful step-by-step approach. He can help you, He can, He loves you, trust Him, trust Him. Who says that the very thing that keeps tripping you up all the time is not the thing that God wants you to bring glory to Him with in you life through your faithfulness? Who says that the forgiveness of the person you have not been able to forgive for 20 years is not the thing that will help you be a great forgiver for the rest of your life.
Ruth wasn’t going to let circumstances dictate her. She realised there was a sovereign God that had a plan for her life. So she started gleaning and look what happens. Boaz shows the most incredible kindness to her. Boaz bursts onto the scene in verse 4 and look what he says “The Lord be with you!” he says to the harvesters. Even Gayle, Phil and I, we’re pastors and we don't greet each other like that! We say “Good morning” But imagine living in a place where you worked and the people came and said the Lord be with you, Lord bless you they say. This immediately shows that Boaz was a man of character, a godly character and he was always blessing people, being positive encouraging those around to trust in the Lord. And that's what he shows us for the rest of this chapter. He continues to show kindness to Ruth, right through in so many different ways.
Just note in verse 3b though what it says “As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz”. It just happened that way you might read, but underneath it we know that this doesn't happen by chance. How many fields could she have gone to? There would have been so many fields that she could have gleaned that day. She could have walked a different direction and gone a different way but as it happened she ended up in Boaz’s field. And do you know who Boaz was? He was a relative, he was someone who might be able to save this family from troubled times. Boaz comes along and from then on the notice that Boaz immediately notices her. Who is this woman? Who is this woman here? Verse 5. The workers say, “Hey, she came, she asked this morning whether she could glean and from that time until now, and it's almost lunchtime, she's just been flat-out working so hard. All she had was a tiny break over the time, she's been gleaning diligently right through (Verse 7). So Boaz approaches her in verse 8, and says my daughter, listen to me. Don't leave this place I want you to be safe here in this field. I've had a talk to the guys (I think guys then could have been like they are today who probably looked at this beautiful young girl and might have made some passes towards her, she might have been in great danger of any sort of sexual advances or anyone treating her harshly) but he says, stay with my girls, they’re looked after by the men and I’ve already talked to the men and I’ve told them not to touch you. Stick here, you’ll be safe. What incredible kindness he showed her. He also said that you can get a drink, because you know, these guys, they actually look after the girls and they poured drinks for them and you will be able to get a drink from them to. So not only will you be able to looked after and protected from the guys, you’ll be able to drinks, they’ll look after you. Do you know what her response was when he said that? Did she say - thanks, I knew you’d look at my beauty and give me what I deserve. She didn't say that all! Look at her response in verse 10 “At this she bowed down with her face to the ground. She exclaimed ‘why have I found such favour in your eyes that you notice me – a foreigner?” She's filled with humbleness, with thanksgiving, she doesn't assume anything. She is overflowing with thankfulness for the way in which Boaz has shown kindness to her, one who didn't deserve to be shown kindness.
For the rest of the day Boaz looks after her, cares for her, makes sure that those who were gleaning actually leave more for her and she is able to get so much, an ephah of barley, (about 22 litres) it’s a huge amount, enough to feed her and Naomi, enough to last them. This relationship, working in Boaz’s field, right through the whole of the harvest season. Because of Boaz's kindness, Naomi and Ruth were fed and cared for.
I think there’s two things that I just want to share as with you this morning.
First – God provides for the destitiute through Boaz and people like you and me. There are people all around us who have come to our field. There are people who have great needs. Some are uni students who have left family and friends to come and study. Some are people who have moved from the city for work and are trying to find new friends. Some are people in trouble because of not enough food, can’t find a job, can’t find a friend to talk to. Some come here not knowing any languages, people that don't have any skills and people that have arrived in our country. Yet God looks out for Ruth and Naomi. He provides Boaz, a godly man who It strikes me as I see Boaz, he wasn't going on a march, he wasn't making a big fuss and starting a thing - wearing a badge ‘I care for these people and I look after them’. He just shown kindness to those who were in need. He just reached out to those who in need. God’s put us here for a great purpose. We are in this region where there are so many people who have never known God’s love. Just giving some time, some friendship, some food, some things we can help them. God wants to help us help people who are less fortunate and isn't that the heart of God? Isn't that what He does? Shows kindness to those who are unfortunate. I wonder if I can leave that with you, firstly. How can you show kindness to those around you? They can be people in your family who are out of work, or who are down, are suffering depression, feeling terrible about themselves. How can you be a Boaz to people today?
The other thing I just want to finish with, right in the midst of your circumstances, some of you feel like Naomi and Ruth – on the bottom, vulnerable, afraid, feeling like a foreigner, hurt, angry, upset, like circumstances have been against you - don't take your eyes off God and what He is planning for you. Today God wants you to know from this passage and from the whole rest of the Bible that if you’re feeling broken He wants to comfort, heal, and restore you. He wants to breathe new life into you again, to give you hope.
God sees your pain this morning. He wants you to let go and let Him love you. He wants you to trust him afresh. In Isaiah 57:15 God says, “I live in a high and lofty place but also with the him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” He wants to revive you, to revive your heart, to give you His love this morning.
Because don’t you know what might be right around the corner? God might be able to use you in a way that you never dreamed or imaged. Ruth was able to get involved at the harvest time and bring in plenty to save Naomi, to start again afresh, trusting God. People are yet to see what God might do in you. You don't know, fully what the future holds, but God does. Give your life to him afresh, cling to Him as Ruth clung to Naomi and again, live your lives holding His hand and the future is looking bright.