Summary: Second in a four-part series on the book of Ruth; from chapter 2, the kindness of God is revealed in Ruth’s and Boaz’ actions and hope is rekindled for Naomi as God provides.
Trinity Baptist Church June 17, 2007
Ruth: God redeems
Someone wrote, "Anytime you get to know another person, you’ll likely discover something. Invariably, people are marked by two kinds of past experiences -- both of them from earlier relationships. The two are acts of malice and acts of kindness. It’s no surprise that unkind acts bubble back up when people remember past relationships. Pain has a long memory. But acts of kindness -- those stand out for a different reason -- it’s because they’re so amazingly rare."
Malicious acts center on the person who triggered the pain. Acts of kindness focus on the person for whom the kindness was done. Somebody defined kindness as "doing something for someone else without expecting payback.”
Think for a second about a time when somebody did something kind for you. How did you feel -- when they did something for no reason -- except to meet a need? More thank likely you felt loved -- because that’s what kindness exhibits. Kindness flows from love for people, which stems of course from the love of God.
We started a short series last week in the book of Ruth. The first chapter of this four-act drama we called, “The Road Home“. The 75-mile trek Ruth and mother-in-law Naomi took to Bethlehem was a sad one. It came more than a decade after another journey -- one made by Naomi and her husband. There had been a famine in Israel in those days and this couple -- simply took things into their own hands. They packed up their sons and they left God’s land and God’s people. They also separated themselves from God’s promises by taking off to find relief in the neighboring pagan country, Moab. Their objective was to find food, but their mode of pursuing their objective got them way off-track.
We observed that Elimilech and Naomi were products of their generation. Ruth 1:1 informed us, they lived in the OT period of the judges. That was a spiritual “dark ages” in Israel’s history. The sad commentary of Judges 21:25 was in those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in their own minds. A lot like our time in history. God’s people had forgotten God. And Elimelech -- whose name meant The Lord is King -- also forgot God. The couple ignored God’s declaration that He was Israel’s Provider -- He was the One Who gave rain and harvests and food to His people. And instead of throwing themselves on God to provide, even in the desperate time of famine, Eli and Naomi just moved.
Things didn’t turn out well. First Elimilech, then both sons died in that pagan country. By that time, the sons had Moabite wives. Chapter 1 told us Naomi decided then to go home -- she’d heard that God’s hand of provision was open to His people again.
She started off with the two daughters-in-law -- but along the way then urged them to return and stay with their people and their god. One did, the other did not. Ruth. The one who did not, along with her mother-in-law is the one to whom God is going to exhibit kindness and grace. He won’t do it like we might imagine: He will do it indirectly, through kind people.
Chapter 1 ended reporting that Naomi and Ruth arrive in Bethlehem just as barley harvest is starting. That’s where chapter 2 picks up the story. This chapter is going to offer us two powerful illustrations of God’s kindness. It’s in kindness that God proves His mercy and faithfulness to us. You know if you’ve read this book, that God’s plan is to redeem these two women. When chapter 2 opens, God’s already working His plan. And like we talked about last time, God often accomplishes His desires, not with astounding miracles, but quietly and indirectly by His providence. In the case before us, it will be through faithful and kind people.
I want to begin by scanning two portraits of God‘s kindness. Chapter 2 introduces us to the story’s human hero -- Boaz. But we begin with the first person through whom God’s kindness comes to light. It’s in Ruth‘s faithfulness to Naomi
Look at chapter 2. Verse 1 signals that God is up to something -- that’s why we get the immediate introduction to God’s man Boaz. But jump to verse 2.
Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “please let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after one in whose sight I may find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” So she departed and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers; and she happened to come to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimilech.