We Know Who Holds the Pen (Ruth 2:17-23)

Ruth 2:17-23

Story tellers tell stories in certain ways for certain reasons. The Bible is no exception. When the narrator of Ruth tells the reader, “Now Naomi had a relative of her husband’s, a worthy man of the clam of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz,” before Ruth tells Naomi, her mother-in-law, where she gleaned the food she brought back, he is making a point.

The reader is given a piece of information that Ruth, at that moment, was unaware of. According to the Levitical law, she found great favor in the field of the one man who could redeem both her and her mother-in-law from dire straits (Ruth 2:1). Her good fortune went well beyond the ephah of barley she brought home.

When Ruth tells her mother-in-law, “Boaz,” is the man whose field she gleaned in, her mother-in-law breaks out in praise. Naomi realized what happened, and we the reader do to. God was providentially working in Naomi’s and Ruth’s lives in ways they never could have comprehended before.

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Reflect your Redeemer like Boaz (Ruth 2:4-23)

Ruth 2:4-23

Do you want to hear a joke? What was Boaz before Ruth? Give up? Ruthless.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Boaz was neither ruthless before nor after he met Ruth. At a time when many had turned away from the Lord (Ruth 1:1), Boaz reflected his Redeemer.

The first thing we see Boaz doing in the Book of Ruth is blessing his workers. We have a God who never ceases to bless us. Who could you bless today?

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Forget not the sun rises in the morning (Ruth 2:1-4)

Ruth 2:1-4

Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth arrive in Bethlehem widowed and impoverished. They both lost everything in Moab and came back to Bethlehem broke.

Ruth gets up one morning and asks her mother-in-law, “Let me go to the fields and glean…?” By “glean” she was referring to a certain provision in the law of Moses for the poor and the foreigner in the land (see Leviticus 19:9). Ruth, being of the industrious type, was saying, “Well there is no use starving to death, let me see what I can do.” However, being a Moabite in a land she had not known before with laws she did not fully understand, she asks her mother-in-law for the assurance that these strange Israelite laws might actually work.

Her mother-in-law says, “Go.” Where does Ruth end up? The original Hebrew literally translates, “A happenstance happened to her to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz.”

The narrator sets up irony here. In the eyes of Ruth, she just happened to wonder into this field. But, in reality, God placed her there. As one commentator put it, “…In the jumbled patchwork of subdivided property, she just happened to find the piece of farmland belonging to Boaz, the very individual” who could redeem her deceased husband’s land back to her. This was not by chance; this was of the Lord.

In the seemingly jumbled patchwork of our lives God is more involved that you and I presently know. We spend much of our lives groping in the dark, trying to find our way. We make plans that sometimes succeed and sometimes fail. We think our lives will go this way, but then things change; people die, businesses close, pandemics happen. However, in it all, God is doing things we at best have only begun to perceive.

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Have you followed in the footsteps of Ruth? (Ruth 1:16-17)

On the road to Bethlehem, Ruth said to her widowed mother-in-law, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” (Ruth 1:16–17) Every Christian is called to follow in the footsteps of Ruth.

Ruth said, “where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge.” Rather than making the sensible, safe decision, Ruth made the sacrificial one. Christ left the glory of heaven to lay down his life to give us new life (Philippians 2:1-8). Christ often calls his followers to choose the road of sacrifice.

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The wiser choice is sometimes not the practical one (Ruth 1:16-17)

Ruth 1:16-17

They were living in times of moral chaos and religious confusion. A famine came over their homeland. This family of four sought shelter in a foreign land. They hoped to eke out a meager existence working as migrants. Elimelech, Naomi, and their two sons traveled from their home in Bethlehem to Moab, hoping for something better. But what they found was not hope, but more tragedy.

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Why did Jesus come? (Matthew 1:21)

Matthew 1:21

Jesus is the Greek version of the Hebrew name Joshua. What did Joshua do for Israel? God used Joshua to save Israel from her enemies in the promised land.

Let us think about that for a moment. In the days when the angel spoke to Joseph, Israel was under Roman rule. Joseph may have thought this child would one day, like Joshua, save Israel from her Roman oppressors. The angel did not say that. He said, “he will save his people from their sins,” not from Rome but from their sins.

Like first-century Israel we often mistake the hope of the world for geo-political solutions. We say we want someone to save our nation, someone who will stand up for what is right in society, a hero by our standards who will take care of whatever or whoever we think our enemy is. Jesus does not save in this way; his salvation works on a deeper level.

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Christ’s followers walk by faith not by sight (Romans 4:18-22)

Romans 4:18-22

Abraham had big thoughts about God. Abraham believed that God had the power to bring dead things back to life. Abraham believed that God could summon things into existence that did not previously exist.

Abraham did not put much stock in appearances. Decades had passed since God promised to make Abraham’s descendants into a great nation. That promise depended upon a son, which he and Sarah did not have. Now their reproductive organs were as good as dead, which meant for a child to be born to them at their age was about as likely as a virgin giving birth. Though they wavered, they did not break. Though the branches of the tree swayed in the winds of life, its roots remained firmly planted in the promises of God. Though the ship tossed in the high seas, its anchor remained firmly wedged in the promises of God. Instead of his faith weakening over the years of waiting, Abraham’s faith matured, deepened, and became stronger. He did not walk by how things appeared; he walked by faith. (Romans 4:18-22)

Do you walk by faith in the promises of God that he has made to you in his Holy Scriptures? Faith can look very strange to the world. By faith, the followers of Christ do things that make no sense to the world. Christians spend their time, money, and energies doing things the world does not understand. We love and pray for our enemies, not motivated by anything we will get from them in return. We just love them. We sacrifice our time, perhaps even our vacations, to provide acts of kindness and compassion. We speak the truth even when no one wants to hear it. We proclaim Christ to a dying world, which often seems quite content on dying.

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Two different displays of the same grace of God (Romans 4:9-12)

Romans 4:9-12

The doctrine of justification by faith alone was not invented by the New Testament authors. The Apostle Paul demonstrated that both Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel, and David, Israel’s most renown king, were justified by faith alone (Romans 4:1-8).

The Apostle then goes on to illustrate that even circumcision, the covenant sign of Israel, was given to confirm the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Circumcision was not an action done to earn favor with God, but a proper display and response to the favor God gives as a gracious gift received by faith alone.

The Apostle said, “For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised.” (Romans 4:9–10, see also Genesis 15 and 17) Circumcision was not the basis of Abraham’s righteousness before God, circumcision confirmed the gift.

God’s gracious character has not changed between the Old and New Testaments. The blessed person of the Old Testament is really the same type of person in the New Testament, because both come before the same God. The only difference between them is their place in time relative to the unfolding of God’s plan of salvation on earth. The believers of the Old Testament trusted in the shadow and symbolically displayed the grace of God through the covenant sign of circumcision. Believers today now see the body of that shadow and symbolically display the grace of God through the covenant sign of baptism. Both covenant signs – though different relative to the stage of God’s plan of salvation in which they were instituted – point to the same gracious gift of God.

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Blessed is the one whose sins are forgiven (Romans 4:5-8)

Romans 4:5-8

King David is considered the most righteous of all the kings of ancient Israel. How did David receive his righteousness before God? The Apostle Paul said, “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works (Romans 4:5).”

The Apostle goes on to quote Psalm 32, “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin (Romans 4:7-8; see also Psalm 32:1-2).”

The blessed person in this Psalm refers to, in contemporary language, the happy and whole person. This person is living life the way it was meant to be lived. According to the Holy Scriptures, David’s works did not justify him before God. Rather, David claimed quite the opposite. His transgression and iniquities should have cut him off from God’s righteousness. He should be called the cursed person, not the blessed person.

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You might have been taught that salvation is by works without knowing it (Romans 4:3)

Romans 4:3

Many people from their youth have been taught a salvation by works narrative. I do not mean someone said to them this is how you get saved, but that someone taught them that if they want to count for something they need to do certain things.

The American version of this teaching says, “Do good in school, get into a good college, land a good job, and then you will live the good life.” There is nothing wrong with wanting to do good in school or land a good job. However, that messaging can easily become a salvation by works narrative. We can begin to think that if we do not do good in school or fail to land that job, somehow it diminishes our worth.

Disney and the promoters of the self-esteem movement have said similar things, like, “You can be whatever you want, if you put your mind to it.” I suppose they were trying to tell kids not to let other people tell them what they cannot do. However, that messaging can easily be turned into a salvation by works narrative. If someone really puts their mind to something but fails to achieve it, does their worth diminish?

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