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Sun, Nov 11, 2001

7 - God's Faithfulness

Ruth 2:13-20 by Robert Dean
Series:Ruth (2001)
Duration:1 hr 5 mins 48 secs

God's Faithfulness; Ruth 2:13-20

 

We have to look at Ruth almost in the sense of a drama, like a play. There are various characters. The three major characters are Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz. The key person in the book is not the person for whom it is name, it is Naomi. It is the story of how Naomi who has as the wife of Elimelech left the land, the place of blessing, the place that God had promised to give Israel, the place that they were told to stay, and gone outside the land in an attempt to solve the problems that they were facing—the problems of famine, the problems of divine discipline. In order to solve the problems of divine discipline on Israel brought on by that famine, they have gone outside the land and have moved to Moab. Rather than finding prosperity they found adversity, rather than find blessing they found cursing, rather than finding life they found death. So Naomi has lost her husband and her two sons. All that she has left are her two daughters-in-law and by the time that we get to the end of chapter one, one of those daughters-in-law has turned back to Moab. Naomi and Ruth continue on their journey home to Bethlehem. The book of Ruth focuses on how God transforms the cursing in the life of Naomi into blessing. She comes back empty but she becomes full by the end of the book. As a microcosm that represents the same thing that is happening in the history of Israel at this time. They have been under divine judgment because of their sin because of idolatry, because of their failure to take the land under God's mandate to destroy all of the Canaanites in the land, and they constantly go through the cycles of judgment. These are the cycles in Judges. In the same time that God is transforming the cursing in the nation into blessing he is transforming the cursing in Naomi's life into blessing, and in the greater sense it is a picture of how transforms the cursing, the judgment of sin on mankind, into blessing through the provision of Jesus Christ and His death upon the cross as a substitute for us. And it is through the fullness of Naomi that God will provide that savior because she is in the line of the savior. Ruth will become the great grandmother of David who is in the line of the Lord.

 

Last time as we looked at the beginning of this chapter we were reminded of two major doctrines taught here. The first if the faith-rest drill. This is a perfect and beautiful example of how the faith-rest drill operates. Proverbs 3:5, 6, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths." So you have two spheres of activity. Number one, you have the sphere of thinking and activity in the life of the believer. When the believer is taking God at His word and trusting God, not worrying how things are going to work out, how God is going to solve the problem, what exactly are the means going to be, but you have the believer who is to trust God and do what God's Word says to do. So there we see that trust or trusting God has two activities. There is a passive sense of trust and there is an active sense of trust. The passive sense is when we rest in God in order to provide the consequences of the result. The active sense is that we do what he says to do. For example, we are to give thanks in all things. We may not understand all the dynamics of what is happening, we may not understand the suffering or the adversity that we are going through at the present time, but we know we are to give thanks. We are to relax and Give thanks to God for the situation and we rest in Him. In that suffering we respond and by claiming various promises and using various problem-solving techniques, and in the process God is working. As we look back at it maybe five, ten or twenty years later we discover that God was directing our paths. That is the picture that we see at the beginning of chapter two where the shift of focus goes from Naomi to Ruth, and in verse 2 Ruth takes the initiative to go out and provide for the sustenance of Naomi.

 

Principle: God clearly has a welfare system established to take care of the widows and the orphans and the poor in the nation. But it is a system that is not merely a handout. It emphasized responsibility. When you have a welfare system that negates the first divine institution of personal responsibility then rather that promoting a work ethic and responsibility it destroys a work ethic and responsibility. The Scriptures clearly recognize that. It is clear in the Mosaic law that God had a provision but it wasn't just a free gift, it was the procedure where the destitute person still worked, still fulfilled some responsibility. They had to go out into the fields and had to glean. The landowners, the farmers, were to apply the law and they were to leave the corners of the field unharvested so that the poor could come out and harvest for themselves. So there would be a provision there.

 

The problem is that we are operating at a time in the book of Ruth which is the period of the Judges, a time of carnality and incomplete and partial obedience to the law, and there were probably a number of farmers and landowners who weren't applying the law. But Ruth recognizes the principle and she is going to trust God to provide the field for her where she can glean and find food for her and Naomi. Finally, she just "happened"—the writer says, emphasizing that it was not by pure luck, to bring to our attention the fact that there is no pure chance in the plan of God and that God is the one working behind the scenes. There we see Ruth trusting God and behind the scenes God is directing her paths. So we see how God is going to lead and direct her, it is not an overt leading. You don't see God anywhere in the book of Ruth reaching down from heaven and pushing her in one direction or the other. There is no direct revelation. In many ways that is comparable to how God leads and directs in the life of the believer today. Many times God does not have a specific plan or will for the individual. When He does He gently moves us in that direction while we are trusting Him. So often in life we face major decisions and are trying to decide what God's will is for our life and God is not going to speak from heaven, He is not going to give us special revelation through some prophet. God is giving us an opportunity to trust Him and apply what we know, and in that process God directs. God clearly has a sovereign will operating in Ruth's life, and so as Ruth knows what she is to do, which is to go out and look from one farm to the next, God either closes the doors or opens the doors as He is directing her. So He opens the door and she ends up in this field where the overseer gives her the opportunity to go out and harvest, and it turns out that the field is owned by Boaz who is a kinsman of the family, a kinsman who can step into the role of the goel, which is the role of the kinsman-redeemer, one of the key words for redemption in the Old Testament.

 

Boaz begins to demonstrate a key principle in this book, and that is the principle of chesed, the principle of faithful love, and therein lies the theme of this entire book, and that is, understanding grace. The whole book of Ruth is a picture of God's grace that transforms Naomi's cursing into blessing. It is God's grace that transforms the cursing in Israel to blessing. It is God's grace that transforms the cursing on human sin into the blessing and provision of salvation. It is a picture of grace orientation in the life of the believer because both Ruth and Boaz are going to demonstrate their understanding of grace and orientation to grace in contrast to Naomi who hits the tough adversity of losing her family and who is not grace oriented. In fact, she doubts the grace of God.

 

The key thing the author wants us to focus on in chapter two is the events of verses 8-13 where the is a turning point in Boaz's chesed and his generosity towards Ruth. That is the author's point that he wants us to focus on in terms of doctrine for this particular chapter.

 

In verse 8 when Boaz says to Ruth, "My daughter," this is an example of his grace to her. He is not treating her simply as a stranger, he is indicating by his use of the term that he is going to adopt a protective stance toward her.

 

In verse 10 the fact that she is a foreigner emphasizes that she is not a Jew, not one of the covenant family of God, she does not have specific privileges under the Mosaic law, and it is a picture of how God's grace extends to the Gentile even in the Old Testament. "Why have I found favor?" The Hebrew there for favor is the word hen, the word for "grace." So she recognizes grace when she sees it. She recognizes that she is undeserving of these extra details, that it is unmerited, that she has no right to this because she is a foreigner. She recognizes that behind Boaz's actions are the actions of God. So it tells us right away that she is oriented to grace and she is thinking about grace.

 

Boaz's response to her again highlights his integrity in his character and again tells us that he is grace oriented. Remember that integrity is related to four character qualities in the essence of God. The first is God's righteousness; the second is His justice. His righteousness is the absolute standard of His perfection. The justice is the application of that standard. The third element is His love which is the expression of His benevolence towards mankind, and this is always expressed to man on the basis of truth. It is these four elements that come together in the integrity of God, so that when man has integrity he is reflecting the standard of God and its application, he reflects the expression of God's love towards others—grace, God's unmerited favor towards man is the expression of divine love—and he can only develop that because he has based his life on the truth of God's Word because he understands the absolutes in Scripture and it in the process of renovating his thinking. Operating in grace towards people is not our natural inclination, it goes against everything in the sin nature because the sin nature is oriented primarily towards self-protection and self-absorption—we want to do whatever is right and to heck with everyone else. So Boaz's response in verse 11 emphasizes his character.

 

In verse 12 Boaz goes on to recognize that it is the Lord behind everything, so he shows a certain amount of spiritual perspicacity because he recognizes even at this stage that God is the one working in the details.

 

Psalm 91, to see what the Psalmist says about taking refuge in God. This is a psalm of trust which is expressing the trust of the psalmist for God's protection and provision and care.

 

Psalm 91:1, "He who dwell in the shelter of the most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty." He it is emphasizing God's sovereignty, that the believer needs to put himself in the position where he is relying on the protection of God, just as Ruth has done.

 

Psalm 91:2, "I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust." God is our refuge and our fortress and He has provided a fortress protection for us, which we call the soul fortress, made up of the problem-solving devices that God has given the believer. The problems solving devices is basically a distillation of the basic mechanics that God has given the believer for protection in life. It begins with the faith-rest drill. That is why after confession and the filling of the Holy Spirit who is the enabler of the Christian life in the church age is imperative for the life that can only be lived on a supernatural basis. After that the foundation for everything else in the Christian life is the faith-rest drill—trusting God.

 

Psalm 91:3, "It is he who will deliver you from the snare of the trapper, and from the deadly pestilence."

 

Psalm 91:4, "He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you may seek refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and bulwark." Notice the imagery that the psalmist uses there with reference to the eagle: "he will cover you with his pinions." God is the one who protects us. His faithfulness being a shield and bulwark is a reference to His dependability. Understanding God's protection is a result of understanding His attributes. That is why it is important to know the attributes of God, because in times of testing and trouble, and in times when we are tempted to worry and be afraid, it is comforting to stop and rehearse the attributes of God in our mind. God is sovereign, which means He controls all the circumstances in my life and what has happened to me is not something that is outside the control of God, so therefore there

must be a plan, a purpose, a reason for this. So we remind ourselves of God's character and all of that reminds us of His faithfulness and dependability. Furthermore, it reminds us that evil is under God's control. No matter how horrendous the circumstances might be we know that nothing happens outside of God's control, and as a result of that we can rest in confidence.

 

Psalm 91:5, 6, "You will not be afraid of the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flies by day; nor of the pestilence that stalks in darkness; nor of the destruction that lays waste at noon."

 

Psalm 91:7, "A thousand shall fall at your side, and ten thousand at your side; but it shall not approach you." No matter what happens to us as a believer we can continue to march through the adversity calm, knowing that God is in control. And even if it costs us our life we are just going to be absent from the body and face to face with the Lord. So why should we ever give it a second thought.

 

The reason for this is given in verse 9, 10, "For you have made the LORD, my refuge, even the most High, your dwelling place; no evil will befall you, neither any plague come near your tent." So this is a promise of protection, that God is our refuge. This is the mental attitude of Ruth.

 

Now let's go back to Ruth chapter two to see what is happening with Boaz and Ruth, and understanding the fantastic mentality of these two people, how they have taken in doctrine, the level of doctrine that they have assimilated  and how this has affected their mental attitude, especially with Ruth, in the midst of this situation. Her response to his grace in verse 13 demonstrates the depth of grace orientation in her life. She says, "I have found grace in you sight, my lord; for you have comforted me, and indeed spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants." This is an interesting passage because in the English we have a word translated "maidservant" and that same translation is used in chapter three, verse nine. Nevertheless this is a different word and has a different meaning. So we have to pay attention to the nuances of the Hebrew here. First of all, she says, "I have found favor in your sight." What she says here is a declarative statement that should be translated "I have found grace in your sight, my lord, because you have comforted me." The word for "comfort" is the piel of nacham which means to comfort, to console, and to bring relief. She recognizes that Boaz is dealing with her in grace. She recognizes that he is demonstrating chesed. He is grace-oriented, and grace orientation doesn't stop with just understanding that my relationship with God isn't based on who and what I am but on who and what He is, grace orientation continues to extend itself in our relationship with those around us.

 

He has spoken "kindly" to her, and literally in the Hebrew it says, he has "spoken to her heart." When you speak to someone's heart the word leb refers to the core of our person, our being. Here is this young girl who has no idea what here sustenance is. She has no idea where anything is going to come from, where the next meal is coming from, and she is responsible for taking care of her mother-in-law. There is nothing there and despite the fact that she is trusting God and is relaxed in God there is still a level of concern. Where is the next meal coming from? Is this going to work out? How is the Lord going to provide? This is still running through the core of her thinking. There is a difference between thinking about that and worry. And when Boaz comes along and tells her this he speaks to her heart, he speaks to the core concern of her soul, and she sees in this that this man is God's provision to take care of her and Naomi.

 

Notice how she responds. She says, "You have spoken to the heart of your maidservant," and the word here translated "maidservant" is not the word we find in Ruth 3:9. It is the word shiphach, and there are two other synonyms for this word. It has to do with a servant but it is different from the two other words used for a female servant. One simply means a young servant girl and the emphasis comes from the root of naar which means young or youthful and emphasizes the age of the servant. Then the other word which is used in 3:9 is amah, and this refers properly to a maidservant, a hire social standing than a shiphach. Ruth uses the term shiphach to indicate that she has genuine humility. She is putting herself at the lowest rung of Jewish society at this time. There is no hope for her, she recognizes that she has no social status whatever, she is not even in a position of being his shiphach. Notice her gratitude. She recognizes that she has absolutely no claim whatsoever to his benevolence. That is exactly the position that we need to be in at the moment of salvation. We have no claim to God's favor or God's grace. Everything is based on who God is and what Jesus Christ did not the cross, it has nothing to do with who and what we are. That is true humility. Ruth recognizes that there is nothing in her to cause Boaz to treat her in this way. She says she is not like one of his maidservants (shipach), she is lower than that. She has no standing whatsoever and she has no claim at all to his kindness. She recognizes first of all that she is totally unworthy, and secondly we see here her gratitude. Gratitude always goes with grace orientation. Two character qualities are essential if you are applying grace orientation. The first is humility and the second is gratitude. Gratitude is a measure of the believer's advance in the spiritual life. If you have very little gratitude towards God, or towards events in your life, even when they are horrible situations of adversity, then you have very little spiritual maturity.

 

Then we see the next interchange of conversation between Boaz and Ruth takes place sometime later. There is a time gap between verse 13 and verse 14. She goes back out into the fields apparently and continues to glean and by verse 14 we come to the meal time at noon.

 

Ruth 2:24, "And Boaz said to her, At mealtime come here, and eat of the bread, and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar. And she sat beside the reapers: and he reached her parched corn, and she did eat, and was sufficed, and left." What she meets here again is an expression of grace. God is supplying for her abundantly. Philippians 4:19. God is the one who supplies our needs. His bank account is full and He supplies our needs according to His riches in glory. He has provided us with every asset, every provision that we need in order to handle every circumstances in life. That is called the doctrine of the sufficiency of the grace of God. Both Boaz and Ruth understand that, and Ruth is getting a fantastic object lesson in grace orientation and God's tremendous supply of our needs in this episode.

 

The word here for vinegar is probably not the best translation. The word is chomets which was a condiment that ad a vinegar base but it was tasty and was used to moisten up and spice up the dry bread. So Ruth comes up and hasn't done anything for her food and he is supplying for her. This is not the grain that she has taken already, he is giving her more grain, he is giving her bread, he is giving her chomets. He is going to take care of her and give her more than she would expect. She doesn't eat what she picked, she eats what someone else picked. She doesn't eat what she roasts, she eats what someone else roasted. She is invited to partake of the meal, she doesn't initiate the action. She is the recipient of God's grace blessing and the abundance of that grace. In the Bible eating isn't just sitting down and having a little sustenance and then going on, it is a picture of fellowship. At meal time Boaz offering the food to her shows the sign that he is going above and beyond the call of duty in being kind and generous to her and providing her more than she needs. He is demonstrating again his chesed, that he is generous, that he has compassion for her, and that he is doing whatever he can to help her out. He is going above and beyond the necessity of the situation. This is because he is doctrinally oriented.

 

Grace orientation and doctrinal orientation work together. This is seen from three distinct verses in the Old Testament. Proverbs 22:9 recognizes the principle that Boaz understands: "He who is generous will be blessed; for he gives of his bread to the poor." This is something that goes with grace orientation. Grace orientation applies to all aspects of the Christian life, but what comes to mind is the arena of giving. In giving too often people think of tithing in so many church situations, and tithing is just a legal requirement of ten percent and was an Old Testament taxation. Too many churches have brought that over erroneously into the church age. Grace doesn't mean that somebody else is going to float the bill. The principle of grace is not that I can get by with as little as necessary but generosity and excess because God gave more than is necessary, and that should characterize the life of the believer who is grace oriented. He is generous with his time, generous with his talents, generous with his fortune in supporting the work of the ministry. Boaz also recognizes the principle related to the provision for the needy in the Mosaic law. Deuteronomy 15:14, "You shall furnish him liberally from your flock, and from your threshing floor, and from your wine vat: you shall give to him as the LORD your God has blessed you." This isn't ten per cent. This is the same principle that we find in the new Testament. This is a passage dealing with the provision on an individual basis for the needy, and the standard is according to how God has blessed. God has blessed every one of us in a tremendous manner, so he is to be generous in his giving. That principle always goes with grace giving. Cf. Deuteronomy 16:10, the free will offering which went beyond the mandatory tithe.

 

The doctrine of grace orientation

1)  Definition: To orient means to align our thinking, our speaking and our actions to the grace policy of God.

2)  Grace means undeserved blessing or unearned favor. That means that our thinking needs to go through a transformation. We live in a country where people think pretty much that you get what you pay for and that if you don't deserve it you don't get it. Grace orientation emphasizes the underserved and unmerited aspect of giving, and taking care of people. It means to orient our thinking and our actions to that, and that means generosity.

3)  The grace policy of God means that God deals with His undeserving creatures, not on the basis of what they are or what they have done but on the basis of who He is and what he has done.

4)  At the cross Jesus Christ solved our greatest problem and provides the believer with every resource and asset he will need to resolve every other problem in life.

5)  This demonstrates four things. The first is that grace demonstrates divine integrity—His righteousness, justice, love and truth. Secondly, it is not based on the object of grace. Thirdly, grace is not an attribute of God but an expression of an attribute of God, simply because attributes are character qualities that exist in the Godhead in relationship to other members of the Godhead. Grace always has the creature in view because it is unmerited favor. So grace can't be a function of God for God. Grace is an expression of love. Finally, grace goes above the call of duty. It is excessive, bountiful, generous.

6)  Grace is expansive and generous. This is covered in a number of passages of Scripture. Proverbs 11:25, "The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered." This is a principle of wisdom the way God has built things into the system. It is articulated again in Psalm 112:9, "He has given freely to the poor; his righteousness endures for ever; his horn shall be exalted in honor." Luke 6:38, "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return." This is a general wisdom principle, this is not like the prosperity gospel preach, that if you give $10 to God he will return it 100-fold. That is a perversion of the truth. But the truth is that as we demonstrate grace in our lives, to the degree that we demonstrate generousness and benevolence toward people it will return to us, maybe not in the same way, but there is a correlation there. Other passages are 2 Corinthians 8:1-7; 9:7-11.

 

Ruth 2:17, we find out what happens in the afternoon. "So she gleaned in the field until evening, and beat out that she had gleaned: and it was about an ephah of barley." An ephah of barley is equivalent to about 30-50 pounds of barley. Why does she have so much? Because Boaz has been extremely generous. Notice that in his grace he is not giving it to her. The principle is that by just giving it to her would violate the law. He is making a wise decision here. At this point all he is doing is taking care of someone who is in poverty. She is going to have to work for it, but he is going to make it easy for her to work for it, but he is not going to violate the principle that the poor still need to work for it. He is not going to just give it to her because that would be a violation of the Mosaic law and it would also have tremendous ramifications in destroying her own initiative and in destroying her responsibility. So she continues to work and she has picked all this up, and then she manages to haul this amount of barley back home to Naomi.

 

Ruth 2:18, "And she took it up, and went into the city: and her mother in law saw what she had gleaned: and she brought forth, and gave to her that she had reserved after she was sufficed."

 

Ruth 2:19, "And her mother in law said unto her, Where did you gleaned to day? and where did you work? blessed be he that did take notice of you. And she told her mother in law with whom she had worked, and said, The man's name with whom I worked today is Boaz." Suddenly the lights start to go on in Naomi's head and she gets a glimmer of how God's grace never really left the scene. God has always dealt with them in chesed, and the whole procedure of bringing them back to Bethlehem, the timing and everything, is a part of God's faithfulness.

 

Ruth 2:20, "And Naomi said unto her daughter in law, May he be blessed of the LORD, who [God] has not withdrawn his kindness to the living and to the dead. And Naomi said unto her, The man is near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen." Naomi recognizes that God has not withdrawn His chesed. And she says, "to the living and to the dead." That is a figure of speech where you take two antonyms like morning and evening or day and night, and it talks about the totality. She is talking about the totality of her family, both the living and the dead. She sees that God's grace is continuing to them even though they are dead because she is beginning to see that through this God is going to provide a future for the family. She reveals to Ruth now that the man is a relative, one of their closest relatives.