"Our Refuge & Redeemer": Ruth 2:4-23
“Our Refuge & Redeemer”: Ruth 2:4-23 Sunday, May 31, 2020 We’ve been looking at the book of Ruth, and so far we’ve seen that when God struck their homeland of Israel with famine, Elimilech and his wife, Naomi, fled for the pagan country of Moab in search of something better for their family. But their dark time grew only darker during their years in Moab, and by the end of chapter one Naomi returns to Israel empty and embittered, having suffered the loss of her husband and two sons. Accompanied by her Moabite daughter-in-law, Ruth, the two arrive in Israel at just the right time, as the famine had lifted and the nation was experiencing a bountiful harvest. As we began to explore chapter 2 last week, we saw that God led them to the right place, the fields of a wealthy relative, Boaz, who were are going to discover is the right person to help Ruth & Naomi in their plight. Last week, we focused mostly on Ruth’s initiative to step out in faith. God had set this amazing, sovereign plan in motion to accomplish His great purposes, but if Ruth had stayed home with Naomi, rather stepping out trusting God to provide, likely she’d have missed all that God had prepared to do for and through her. And God calls us to step out in faith too, trusting Him even in the midst of our own difficult circumstances. Last week, we were merely introduced to Boaz in chapter 2, verse 1. We’re told he’s a worthy man of the clan of Elimilech. But neither Ruth or Naomi, nor we, the reader, have met him yet. But today, it’s going to become very clear that Boaz is going to be the man God uses to provide refuge & redemption for these poor widows. So as we walk through the rest of chapter 2 today we’re going to focus mostly on the character of Boaz and see how he points to God as our Redeemer & Refuge. In chapter 2:4, we hear Boaz speak for the first time: “And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you!” And they answered, “The Lord bless you.” Often in the Bible, a person’s very first words tell you something important about them. Boaz’s words certainly do. As he arrives from Bethlehem to check on the progress of the harvest, the very first words we hear him speak are “The Lord be with you”, to which his employees responded, “The Lord bless you.” This is meant to tell us that he was a godly man who honors the Lord in his work. By the time we near the end of the chapter in verse 20, even bitter, skeptical Naomi will agree that he has shown God’s kindness to Ruth. And we see Boaz model godly kindness in at least four ways: 1. He Seeks The Outcast as Family As soon as Boaz arrives, he spots a new face among the gleaning poor. Right away in verse 5: “Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” Not “Who is she?”, but “Whose is she?” as in, “To whom does she belong?” Or “Where does she fit in society?” You see, in those days, women were not generally treated as equals in society, and a widow had very few rights afforded to her. As a foreigner, Ruth would’ve had even fewer. She was, at that time and place, a nobody. And yet Boaz took notice of her and showed concern. Not only that, he spoke to her and treated her like she mattered. When he addressed Ruth in verse 8, he called her “my daughter”, a term of respect. Furthermore, in verse 13 Ruth said to Boaz: “I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants.” Though Boaz owed her nothing, he spoke to her with words kindness and encouragement and comfort. In verse 14, Boaz invited Ruth to eat with himself and his employees, which would have been unusual considering she was a lowly, foreign beggar. Perhaps most astonishingly in verse 9, Boaz tells Ruth that when she is thirsty she is to drink what the young men had drawn. Danny Akin notes that in the culture of the time it was the norm for foreigners to draw water for the Hebrews and the women to draw water for the men. By telling Ruth she is to drink what the Israelite men have drawn Boaz is treating her as if she’s a close family member.1 Ruth had come professing her devotion to God, but having no claim to any of the covenant promises God had made with Israel. But now for the first time since leaving Moab, Boaz’s kindness helps Ruth to feel that maybe there is a place for her among the family of God. 2. He Shelters The Weak Under His Wings Not only did Boaz seek the outcast, but he provided shelter and protection for Ruth. In verses 8-9, Boaz says 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. 9 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?” As we noted last week, gleaning was dangerous work. A woman working alone would have been easy prey for someone with poor intentions, especially a foreign widow, who had no male relatives to offer at least some threat of protection or retaliation against an assault. Boaz recognized Ruth’s weakness, and so kindly took steps to ensure she was protected and safe so long as she labored in his fields. 3. He Serves The Hungry At His Table When lunchtime came, it’s unlikely Ruth had brought much to eat, if anything at all. Boaz recognized this, and in verse 14 said: “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.” This is a spread: there’s fresh bread, wine, and roasted grain. For the first time in probably a long time, Ruth had plenty to eat. Most of us struggle to grasp what it’s like to go hungry. We’re used to having three meals a day, with plenty of snacks sprinkled in 1 Akin, “There Are No Accidents With God”, sermon available at: http://www.danielakin.com/wp- between. But for a poor widow to be able to eat to the point she was full AND have leftovers to take home…what a feast afforded to her by the kindness of Boaz! 4. He Showers The Needy With His Grace Not only did Ruth get plenty to eat at lunch, she received plenty of food to take home. In verse 15, it says: “When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. 16 And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.” 17 So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. So Boaz tells his men to be deliberately careless in their harvesting, so that Ruth would have plenty of grain to carry home. By the time her days is done and Ruth had processed her harvest, she had gathered an entire ephah of barley. That would’ve been somewhere between 30-50 pounds of grain. Most gleaners hoped to gather enough food to feed their family for a day or two. Ruth brought home enough grain to feed she and Naomi for weeks! When Ruth gets home, Naomi sees her haul and asks, “What happened? Where did you go? Who was so good to you?” And Ruth tells the story about how the Lord led her to Boaz’s field and how good he was to her. And Naomi, who to this point in the story has been empty, bitter, and hopeless, feeling abandoned by God, now begins to believe once again that God might not be out to get her after all. In verse 20: “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!” Whose kindness has not forsaken the living and the dead? Boaz’s kindness? Or the Lord’s kindness? Considering she had no previous dealings with Boaz, it seems Naomi here is referring to the Lord’s kindness. The word “hesed” means covenant love and faithfulness. It’s the closest Old Testament word we have for grace. In his gracious providence, God used Boaz’s generosity towards Ruth to remind Naomi of God’s faithfulness. For the first time in a long time, Naomi heart begins to be softened towards God. Maybe he isn’t out to get her after all. Maybe God could provide for her needs, and fill her life with joy once again. In verse 20, Naomi realizes that God has done all this through a “redeemer”. This was a provision in the law (Leviticus 25:25-55) where a close relative was obligated to “redeem” or buy back his relatives if they fell into debt and had to sell themselves into slavery. The kinsman redeemer was also instructed (Deuteronomy 25:5-10) to marry the widow and raise up a child for a brother who had died childless. In this way, the family line and inheritance would continue to be associated with the name of the man who had died. Iain Duguid notes that it’s unclear whether Boaz had a legal obligation to serve as a redeemer for Ruth’s deceased husband. They certainly weren’t brothers, even if Boaz had some sort of familial relationship to Naomi. In addition, the law didn’t address the issue of foreigners who had married into the family and whether a redeemer had any obligations towards them. There were plenty of legal loopholes Boaz could’ve have used to avoid serving as a redeemer if he wanted.2 But it’s clear by Boaz’s generosity that he wasn’t the kind of man who did what he was obligated to do, and nothing more. His heart had been touched by God’s “hesed”, his covenant love, mercy, and faithfulness. Love doesn’t just do what is required, but often reaches far beyond its duties and obligations to acts of generosity and sacrifice. It’s also clear as this story unfolds that the reference to Boaz as a redeemer (little r) is meant to point us to our Redeemer (capital R). It’s clear by Naomi’s response in verse 20 that it wasn’t just Boaz who sought out the outcast, and sheltered the weak, and served the hungry, and showered his grace on the needy, it was God. Boaz was just His instrument. And his actions toward Naomi are clearly intended to be a picture of our Redeemer’s love in action towards us. 1. Jesus Sought Out The Outcast as Family Luke 19:10 says, “He came to seek and to save that which was lost.” In Matthew 9, as Jesus saw the crowds the Bible says His heart was moved with compassion over their plight. And everywhere He went, Jesus treated those who were considered “outcasts” by society as His friends and family. One of the chief complaints of Jesus’ critics was that he befriended and even ate with sinners and tax collectors. Every one of us, at one time or another, has made ourselves an outcast from God. Isaiah 59:2 says, “Your sins have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” And yet, Romans 5 says that even while we were sinners, Jesus Christ died for us. And even while we were enemies of God, God made it possible for us to be reconciled to him through the death of his Son. Our Redeemer seeks out the outcast and makes us part of his family. 2. Not only that, but Jesus Shelters The Weak Under His Wings Psalm 91:1 says: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” Like Ruth, we who come to God in faith seeking refuge under the shelter of his wings find that God is indeed our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of need. In Matthew 11:28, Jesus invited all who are weary and weighed down to come to him and find rest for our souls. Are you weary, worn down, and weak today? Jesus invites you to take shelter in Himself. In Luke 13, Jesus lamented over those in Jersualem: “ O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” The question today is “Are you willing?” Jesus is willing to be your shelter from sin, from life’s burdens and storms. Are you willing to take refuge in Him? 3. Jesus Serves The Hungry At His Table In John 6:35, Jesus said: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” In Luke 14, Jesus told a 2 Duguid, “Esther & Ruth”, Reformed Expository Commentary, p. 163. powerful parable, a story about a man who was throwing a great feast, and servants out to invite people to come. And many of those were invited began to make excuses about why they couldn’t come, and so the man told his servants to invite anyone who wanted to come and enjoy the feast he had prepared. The question we must face is whether we’ll keep making excuses and delaying giving ourselves fully to Jesus, or whether we taste sit down at His banquet table and feast on the Bread of Life, whose body broken was for us and whose blood was shed for us. He loves to satisfy the longing soul, and fill the hungry with good things, and He invites us to taste and see that He is good! 4. He Showers The Needy With His Grace We talked last week about Philippians 4:19: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” In Luke 12:31, Jesus said, “Seek his kingdom, and all these things will be added to you. 32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” God doesn’t just share the riches of His grace with those who trust Him, He delights in doing so. He’s a good God who loves to show mercy and grace toward sinners. Today, maybe you feel like Ruth and you wonder whether there’s a place for someone like you in God’s kingdom. And you need to be reminded that Jesus stretched out His arms for you at the cross that you might take refuge in Him. Maybe you’re like Naomi and you feel abandoned or forsaken by God. The cross of Jesus Christ is a reminder that God has come seeking after you no matter the cost. There is a Redeemer who was willing to do whatever was necessary to bring us back to God, even if that meant tasting death and being made sin for us. And if we have truly received the Lord’s kindness and grace toward us, we will, like Boaz, work to extend His love toward others. We will: 1. Seek Out The Outcast As Family It’s easy to miss all the “Ruths” in our church and our community because we are only looking to make friends with people who are like us. Being a “Boaz” means we intentionally look for those who are outcast, strangers, needy, hurting, and “different” from us. It means, like Jesus, having hearts filled with such compassion for those who are wandering through life apart from God, that we are moved to go into our community as laborers in God’s harvest field. It means that when we come back to church, we don’t just mindlessly walk over to our “normal” seat, but we look for that new face, or the person who’s had a hard week, and go to them (even if social distancing means we leave a few chairs between us for now). 2. We’ll Shelter The Weak Under Our Wings We’ll look for ways to care for and protect the poor, the marginalized, and the hurting around us. We’ll speak up for the least of these, those who struggle to be heard, and seen, and valued in our society, and let them know that their life matters and that God and God’s people care. 3. We’ll Look For Ways To Serve The Hungry At Our Table We will be intentional about looking for opportunities to minister to the needs of those that God has placed in our path. And we’ll be intentional about creating & preserving some margin in our calendars and our checkbooks so we have the time and the resources available to serve others when needs present themselves. 4. And We’ll Shower The Needy With Grace All around us are people in need of grace: the man who just learned he has cancer, the woman battling addiction, the couple whose marriage is floundering, the child struggling to obey, the small business owner wondering how they are going to survive this pandemic, the teenager who’s trying to find their place in the world, the working parent who is overwhelmed and burning the candle at both ends, the family member grieving the loss of a loved one. We could go on and on and on. Almost everyone you will come into contact with this week is carrying a burden of some sort. And while we should never be soft on sin or pretend it’s no big deal, we should always be seeking to point the way to grace. Romans 5:20 says, “where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more.” Christian, as we carry the hope of God’s redeeming love in Christ to a world that desperately needs to hear it, let’s be sure we are clearly pointing the way to a Savior who showers His kindness and grace on anyone who takes refuge under His wings.