Faithlife Sermons

Life is a Split Screen - Ruth 2

The Big Story - Ruth  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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My relationship with God hasn’t been what I expected it to be when I became a Christian at 14. I envisioned going on these great adventures with God where He would feed me from his own hand. I thought that I’d follow him and never doubt him or wrestle with him. I thought that He would make sense of my life for me so that every step of faith was immediately rewarded. I felt like if I just behaved well enough and avoided doing bad things and went to church and gave to the church that somehow my life would always pretty well stay on schedule. But, my experience has been different. My life has been far more ordinary than I expected. I’ve experienced a lot more pain than I thought I would. My steps of faith haven’t always opened heavens floodgates for me. I’ve had a lot more doubts than I expected.

God’s Word

But, here’s what I learn and what I think Ruth is teaching us: Life with God doesn’t always mean extraordinary adventures filled with outrageous miracles. In fact, it usually doesn’t. Life with God is about how God is at work in all things in all places and through all people, no matter how ordinary they seem. No matter how far away God may seem. That is, God most often works through what is ordinary to carry out his eternal providence so that Christians, in a way that no one else can understand, are able to be satisfied, fulfilled, and even amazed with totally ordinary lives in ordinary places.
We ended last week asking: Where is God? Naomi, having lost everything, brought to our minds those two questions that all of us ask when we suffer: Is God not in control? Is God not good? And, what we’re going to see in chapter two is that those two questions are answered, but maybe not the way that you’d expect. They’re answered in the most ordinary way possible, and they’re answered in just two words. Two Ordinary Words that Reveal God (headline):

God “works” through everything that “happens.”

1:3 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.
V. 3 is amazing because of how ordinary it is.
Literal “as chance, chance” “her chance chanced upon” = “as luck would have it”
It’s a nod to how things must’ve looked from Ruth’s perspective. Tell story. In Bethlehem during the harvest. Ruth hope to glean (harvest from the corners and leftovers left for foreigners and the poor). Many foreigners were still rejected or taken advantage of. So, this isn’t a gimme.
From Ruth’s perspective, life must’ve been awful; God was distant; food was scarce; and, she needed to be able to catch a break. Unbeknownst to her, she ends up in the field of a ‘worthy’ man who also happened to be a ‘relative.’ It’s a wink from the narrator that what feels like a lucky break is actually God’s plan rolling out.
Sinclair Ferguson: The Bible shows us life as a split screen. There’s our perspective, and there’s God’s perspective. We read it, and it’s easy to see it from the big picture, but that’s not how you experience it. From Ruth’s perspective, it feels like a lucky break break. From God’s perspective, He’s moving her exactly where He’s always planned for her to be to do what He’s always planned for her to do.
The narrator is inviting us to parallel our experience with Ruth’s experience so that we might have hope in God’s work, no matter how ordinary it is or how distant He feels.
He “positions” her in the right “place”.
“relative of husbands = 2x’s (v.1, 3)” - Their clan (most significant component of the social order) had a responsibility to care for them according to the Law of Moses. “the Moabite” This is against the backdrop of leaving the only home she’d ever known. She left what made sense to her, where she knew how to get food. She’s a stranger. She goes to a place where she doesn’t know anybody or which field belongs to who, totally unsure if they’ll look out for her. She just happened upon the right part of the field. Narrator = LOL
You’re not where you are by accident. You didn’t happen to stumble into Honda or Pine Hill Estates. Andrew and I ran into each other at a Zaxbys. Last week, we presented a plan to the elders on how to put a church on every continent. Kenneth ran into us at the weight room. Saved and has ministered to teenagers for a decade. There’s no place too ordinary for God’s involvement.
Ruth begs us to ask: How might God be at work in my current position?
He “presents” her at the right “time”.
1:22 “the beginning of the Barley Harvest” “And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem.” “Behold” means “you need to look closely at this.” This is the same thought as verse three. Boaz just happened to be coming into town about the time that Ruth got there. The narrator: “Are y’all putting this together yet?”
Ruth is doing all that she knows to do, but God is doing exactly what He’s planned to do. God’s timing must’ve felt off. Why did her father-in-law die? Why did her husband die? Why didn’t God show up then? Why didn’t He intervene when something could’ve been done? She’s doing everything that she knows to do, and God is doing exactly what He’s planned to do.
God’s timing always feels off. Too fast or too slow. ILL: Joe wanted a ministry position. He couldn’t do what he wanted to do; so, he was tempted to do nothing. But, what we learn from Ruth within the providence of God is to just do the next right thing. Do what you know to do, and God is going to do what He’s planned to do.
He “places” her with the right “people”.
“a worthy man” Gideon in Judges 6 “mighty man of valor”; Proverbs 31 “virtuous woman”. It can also mean prosperous.
“in whose sight I shall find favor” Ruth’s only hope was to find a man who would keep God’s Law (for gleaning) in a time in which God’s Law was being discarded. She needed a God-centered man in a godless age. And, the first thing out of Boaz’s lips is “The LORD be with you” to his servants. Do you think this is an accident? She needed a worthy man, and she happened to find one. She needed a man who kept the Law, and she found a man who delighted in the Law.
Our concern should be less about finding the right people and more on being the right people. That’s what’s being elevated in both Ruth and Boaz. God-centered men and women in a godless age. Salt in the midst of a decaying generation. Light set down in the middle of darkness. The hope that your children have and neighbor has is that you delight in God’s law in a time when it’s being discarded. They don’t just ‘happen’ to be your kids or your neighbors. Your co-workers don’t just happen to be your co-workers. You have been sent to them, and they have been sent to you.
Here’s the point that I’m laboring to make: Your life isn’t just happening. It feels like you’re just plodding through and making decisions and doing the best that you can. It feels like you’re in an ordinary place and that everything is happening too fast or too slow. It feels like you’re yet to meet the right person. It feels like you’ve missed God’s will for your life. It feels like nothing is coming together the way that it should. But, Ruth is preaching to us that nothing is just happening in your life. God’s place is perfect. God’s timing is precise. He has the right people in your life. So, regardless of how you feel or how it looks or what you think, take a deep breath. You haven’t missed God’s will; He’s just not working like you thought He would. He’s a work right now in the middle of your ordinary life. You’re in the right place at the right time with the right people.

God “loves” his people through his “people.”

The second question at the end of chapter two was: Is God really good if it doesn’t look like there’s much goodness in your life? Again, it’s answered in a single word. It comes up three times in the book of Ruth, but forms one of the major themes of the book. It comes up in chapter 1 when Naomi prays for her daughters-in-law and again in chapter 2 when Naomi realizes that her prayer has been answered.
Naomi prays for her daughters-in-law in chapter one: "May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me.”
Naomi is almost without words when she realizes her prayer has been answered: 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!”
“hesed” It’s the word for God’s covenant love in the OT. Similar to Agape love in the NT. It means love, but more than love. Kindness, but more than kindness. Loyalty, but more than loyalty. There’s no exact equivalent. It’s goodness in abundance. It’s kindness in excess. It’s love beyond what’s reasonable. It’s the very character of God described in a word.
So, Naomi prays (1:8) that Ruth will experience God’s “hesed”, and then in verse 20 she praises God for his “hesed”. What happened in between? There’s no loaves falling from the sky. There’s no water coming out of the rocks. There’s no miracles. There’s just God’s people doing what God has called his people to do, and through their ordinary faithfulness, God is answering prayers. God loves to answer the prayers of his people through the obedience of his people. God loves his people through his people.
This excited me: Who, right now, is praying a prayer that God is going to use us to answer?
God loves Naomi through Ruth. God loves Ruth through Boaz. Through them, we get a clearer idea of what “hesed” is. That is, God is working through Ruth and Boaz to reveal himself, which is what He always intends to do through his people. “Hesed” is when we:
Protect the “defenseless”
2:8-9 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.”
The vulnerable are well-represented: Naomi is a childless widow. She’s reduced to begging essentially. She’s everybody else’s charity case. So, Ruth stays with Naomi for her protection. But, Ruth is vulnerable herself. Ruth is a widow, and she’s a foreigner. She’s of a hated race. She’s the person that goes missing but nobody cares. She’s the type of woman that’s easily taken advantage of without protection.
Two things to remember: 1) Moabites come from Lot who gave his own daughters over to be abused. 2) During the time of Judges in which women were being regularly abused (Judges 19-21)
Boaz shows the character of God by making ruth his responsibility. Critics point to the end of Judges as evidence that the OT is anti-women or anti-human rights, but it’s because they don’t understand it. Judges is a description of moral decay. Boaz is the picture of God’s character and God’s heart, and it stands out in contrast to Judges.
What little girl is praying for a family today that God is going to answer through you? What single mother is going to get a second wind because of your kindness to her? What victim of abuse is going to finally see God’s heart through you? That’s what God’s people do.
Dignify the “discarded.”
2:12-14 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!” Then she said, “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.” 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.
v. 12 “The LORD repay you” for how you have shown love and care for Naomi. v. 13-14, “And so, I’m going to make that my responsibility.” Boaz sees it as his responsibility to function as God’s diplomat of grace. She would experience God’s goodness through Boaz as Naomi had experienced God’s goodness through her.
Ruth would have been easy to ignore. She was a nobody. Boaz was a big deal. Ruth couldn’t add anything to Boaz. It was going to be a one-way relationship all the way. Those are the relationships that reveal your character. Those are the relationships that allow you to most clearly show God’s goodness. So, he invites her to the banquet. He treats a nobody like a somebody. He elevates her rather than further tearing her down.
Who’s praying tonight in our community that feels forgotten? Maybe it’s the teenager who’s tired of fighting for his dad’s approval. Maybe it’s a widow who still can’t sleep alone in her bed. Maybe it’s a senior adult whose kids live far off and never have time to call. Have they seen Christ in us?
Bless the "destitute.”
2:17-18 So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. And she took it up and went into the city. Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also brought out and gave her what food she had left over after being satisfied.
Ephah = 30-50 lbs = 15 days wages (Imagine a dog food bag full of grain) - Naomi is speechless.
Ruth was hoping to scrape by, and she received an abundance. This was a great expense to Boaz. Doesn’t that sound like Jesus?
David Platt Sermon Archive We Will Spend Our Lives for the Poor

there’s a world that is living on less than $2.00 a day, half the world. There are 16,000 children today who have breathed their last breath because no one gave them a meal. There’s a state we live in where not too far from here there are people living with no plumbing and little food.

A few months ago, Geoffrey took care of his family of four for an entire month on $31.00.
We can answer these prayers. We can show them God’s character.
God is at work in this world through the ordinary means. He’s taking care of defenseless and the discarded and the destitute. He may not be splitting the sea or sending plagues or causing fire to fall. He usually doesn’t. He’s taking care of them by saving you and giving your a job and giving you health and giving you passion for his name. He’s taking care of them by bringing us together and giving us a common vision. Through us, He’s making himself known and visible.
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