Sunday, February 21, 2010

Under Eagle’s Wings

Book of Ruth Chapter 2

To understand Grace is to know God's Sovereign Providential Care.

In a world filled with Poverty and ethnic tension, two women, crushed by life, take advantage of a rich relative.

That’s how Hollywood would sell the Movie “Ruth.” Only they’d probably call it “Sleepless in Moab”, “Avatar: Israel” or “Gone with the Grain.”

But it is a classic story of Rags to Riches, of abandonment and redemption, of sacrifice and reward.

In this chapter we are introduced to a new character, but we also learn a little more about Ruth and Naomi.

All About Ruth: There are three things here that every young person should learn: Initiative, Humility, and Industry, which is a fancy word for Hard Work.

Initiative: Look at v. 2, whose idea was it to go to work? Naomi didn’t have to say, “I wish you would turn off that TV and go get a job.” Ruth volunteered, in fact she already had a plan, “This is what I’m going to do.” Now she submitted the idea to Naomi probably because she wanted to make sure this was acceptable in this country.

ill) Growing up the youngest of 4 kids, everybody else took care of the chores. I was probably 12 before I had to wash dishes, 14 before I had to mow the grass. Oh I was probably running the vacuum and taking out the trash earlier, but with older siblings I could hide and get away with it. But I had two friends close in age, Carl and Ken. Their dad was MIA in Viet Nam and presumed dead. So at 14 and 15 years old they were becoming the men of the house. I remember how they would jump up to help when momma came from the grocery store. So not wanting to look like a jerk I would jump up, too. They did chores without being asked and after a while it actually started rubbing off on me, and I started acting like that at home. Of course I was much younger then, had more energy. Now it takes a lot for me to get out of my recliner. But that’s what initiative looks like, and that’s also the best time to learn it.

Humility: Not only does she submit her idea to Naomi, look at v 7; She didn’t say I have a right to be here. She didn’t just assume the privilege. She didn’t have a sense of entitlement, she asked, “May I glean after the reapers?” That’s like asking a grocer “may I have the old cans of vegetables that you are throwing in the dumpster?” Listen, Humility goes a LONG way with God. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. We have a society with too much sense of entitlement. Some people even approach God like that. My car keeps breaking down but my neighbor has a new car. God, I deserve one too.

There are many hard working folks who don’t want a handout but we still have plenty who think that if someone else has something they should have it too. Where does God ever give us the right to have food and shelter? Listen this happens among Christians, too.

ill) Years ago I went to a Christian bookstore with a friend who was a Mexico Missionary. He was looking for Worship music in Spanish to learn new songs. The lady who owned the store showed him a dozen or so cassettes. My friend picked three and she said is that all you want. He said, “That’s all I can afford.” She was touched and gave him several more and didn’t charge him for them. Her husband came over and she told him and he was fine. But he had a pained look in his eyes so I asked him about it. He said so many people came in expecting something for free just because they are in ministry, we should give it away. But this is our living. This is how we feed our kids. It’s a pleasure to give when we feel like the Lord would be blessed with it, but it’s disappointing to be expected to.

That’s where Industry comes in. Back to verse 7, Ruth had started early and worked all day. Work doesn’t have to be a burden. Yes some jobs are unpleasant. I’ve swung and idiot stick in the heat of day, dug ditches. Listen, it’s hard to dig up a busted septic tank, in the heat of a Texas Summer and do it to the Glory of God. Young people, you should hear the stories of some of your elders about what it means to work and work hard, and at the end of the day to be thankful you have a job. That’s the kind of woman Ruth was.

Naomi Smiles: Skip down to v 17 Now if I was writing the Hollywood script I’d have Ruth saying, “Why didn’t you tell me you were related to Bill Gates? I come all the way to your hometown thinking we’re starving to death and your favorite nephew is rich!”

That’s not what she said of course. But look at what Naomi said in v 20. “May he be blessed of the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead.” Who is Naomi praising here? God or Boaz? She is praising God. She asks God to bless Boaz, but it is God’s kindness that has not forsaken the dead- her husband and sons- or the living-Ruth and Naomi. It wasn’t easy to see in chapter 1 but Naomi was a woman of faith. I think she was a woman of faith in Moab. I think Ruth knew something of Naomi’s God way back when, because of Naomi. And now, in spite of how hard life has been she is praising God for His goodness.

But now let’s see the new character:

What About BOAZ: (vv 4-9, 14-16)

We learn some things about Boaz here, too.

First back in v1 it says Boaz was a worthy man. That means more than you may think. It means he was a powerful man of wealth AND Valor. Valor means someone who is strong in Spirit and brave.

Then, See how he greets his servants? “The Lord be with you.” That seems pretty mild but he didn’t have to say anything to them, except maybe work harder and faster. But we have a clue to a God-fearing man who treats others, even servants, respectfully.

Then see how he treats Ruth. He is very generous to her. Now, if this was Hollywood, it would be simply because she is another pretty Moabite face. It would be Matt Damon and some starlet and everyone would say, well of course he’s nice to her! But look at v10, Boaz is also a man of honor and compassion. All that is happening to Ruth is not because of Boaz, it’s the Blessing of God, under whose wings she took refuge. REMEMBER what she said to Naomi, “Your people will be my people and your God MY GOD!”

Have you ever wondered WHY God is blessing you? Hardly a single believer hasn’t stopped and asked God, “Why did you show grace to me?” It’s a good question. It recognizes that the grace is because of the giver not the receiver. It acknowledges that the receiver isn’t worthy of this kind of grace.

Could it be you’re under the shadow of His wings?

This is not works based salvation. This is God rewarding the one who finds refuge in Him. Jesus looked out over Jerusalem and said, Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, I would have gathered you under my wings but you would not.”

Now it might look like to the casual observer that God is blessing her ONLY because she has been good to Naomi. That’s definitely part of it, but look back to Moab. Who brought Ruth and her husband together? Who helped Ruth come to know Naomi’s God? Who ended the famine in Israel? Who kept Boaz single and needing a wife? Oh and one more thing- look at v3; She “Just Happened to Come” to the field owned by Boaz. That is like one of God’s little jokes in the Bible. We know she didn’t Happen there by Chance. Chance never did anything. Chance is only a mental construct to explain odds. She happened there by the providence of God!

Look! Ruth has been under the providence of YHWH since before she ever heard of YHWH! And now that she has come under the wings of God, now that her faith is shown in how Ruth treats her mother-in-law Naomi, now that she is showing initiative, humility, and industry, God is not “Paying” her for being under His wings, He is rewarding her from the riches of His grace!

Think about sheep and a shepherd. Sometimes sheep stray. But as the sheep in the flock learn that the shepherd will lead them to green grass and still waters; and as they learn that he’ll protect them in the dark valleys, as they learn he knows when to take them from the waters to lie down a while and rest, they start sticking closer to the shepherd! That is the place of blessing, abundance, protection, and peace. Sometimes we walk in a dark valley where there isn’t much green grass, but there is still protection.

Are you sticking close to the shepherd? Are you part of His flock?

How do you become part of the flock? You have to be Born into it. There are no roaming herds of wild sheep to be domesticated like wild horses or wild hogs. Nope, you have to be born into the flock.

Jesus called it being Born Again. It’s saying to Jesus, “Your God will be my God” and then receiving Jesus Christ as both Savior and Lord.

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