Ruth 3-4, Romans 2

Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning. – Ruth 3:13 ESV

The story of Ruth is really the story of God and His relationship with man. Here was Ruth, a poor, widowed Moabite, a non-Jew, who found herself living with her widowed mother-in-law in Bethlehem. They have nothing. They have lost their husbands and have no source of income. As women, they are vulnerable and helpless. They have no rights. And Ruth, as a Gentile, is particularly hopeless, because the Jews would have viewed her as an outsider and undeserving of Yahweh's kindness, let alone their own. But Naomi knew the laws concerning the Levirate marriage. She understood that the nearest kinsman of her deceased son was obligated by law to care for her daughter-in-law. And it was Naomi's wish that Ruth be provided for and protected so that she might have the joy of perpetuating her dead husband's line through the bearing of children. Ruth followed the instructions of her mother-in-law and appealed to Boaz as her kinsman-redeemer. She boldly confronted him and asked him to become her provider and protector by marrying her. “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer” (Ruth 3:9 ESV). Here was this poor Gentile widow appealing to the much more wealthy and powerful Boaz to do what the law of God required him to do. She was putting herself at his mercy. She was appealing to his grace and kindness. Without his help, her future was bleak and hopeless. Her very existence depended upon his reaction to her cry for help.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God is our redeemer. And we are each like Ruth, helpless and hopeless and in need of someone to rescue us from our dire and desperate condition. Like Ruth, we are undeserving and unworthy of God's kindness. But because of what Christ has done on our behalf, God is obligated to extend mercy and grace to us, regardless of our worthiness. Christ's death on the cross has made our redemption possible. God has provided a way for us to be made right with Him. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14 ESV). The story of Ruth is the story of mankind and God's desire to redeem and restore them. Ruth provides a picture of the individual who recognizes their need and humbly places themselves at the mercy of their redeemer. She came with nothing and was depending on Boaz for everything. We must come the same way to God. We must appeal to Him, not based on our merit or worth, but on the basis of His own requirements. His Son's death has paid the price for our sins and we must come based on that one fact alone. In essence, we must ask God to spread His wings over His servant, for He is a redeemer.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Boaz was a man of character. He was a man of integrity. When Ruth came to him and appealed to him as her kinsmen-redeemer, he did not take it lightly. Even when he knew that there was another relative who had the first right to play that role in Ruth's life and not only redeem her, but also the lands that belonged to her deceased husband, Boaz told Ruth, “Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then as the Lord lives, I will redeem you” (Ruth 3:13 ESV). He was going to do the right thing. Boaz knew the law as well. He was fully aware of Leviticus 25:25-28 and what it said about the redemption of property. He was also familiar with Deuteronomy 25:5-10 and what it taught about levirate marriage. But not only did Boaz know what the law said regarding these things, he was willing to obey them – at all costs. Paul warned the Jews, “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God” (Romans 2:28-29 ESV). Boaz was a good Jew. But not because he knew the law and had been circumcised according to the law. He had a heart that was receptive and obedient to the will of God. He wanted to do what God wanted done. It's interesting to note that when Boaz made the other gentleman aware of his responsibilities as kinsman-redeemer, he only told him about the land belonging to Ruth's deceased husband. Immediately, the man was ready to redeem the land, but when he found out that his responsibility included taking Ruth as his wife and making sure that her children were included in his inheritance, he quickly relinquished his rights as kinsman-redeemer. He knew the law, but did not have the heart to keep it. It was too costly for him. “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it” (Ruth 4:6 ESV). Paul warned, “It is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified” (Romans 2:15 ESV). Boaz was willing to do what the law required, regardless of the cost. He obligated himself to redeem Ruth and become her provider and protector.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

God has redeemed me. He has bought me out of my slavery and spiritual poverty, providing me with new life and a position as His child in His family. And all I had to do was admit my need and appeal to His grace and mercy made possible by the death of His own Son on the cross. But I also want to be like Boaz, who was not willing to simply know the law or will of God, but was willing to do it. His actions revealed his heart. He was a man of integrity, not because he had all the proper spiritual credentials, but because he was willing to live his life according to God's standards, regardless of the cost. Throughout the story of Ruth, you see what happens when men and women do things God's way. Ruth listened to the advice of her mother-in-law and placed herself at the mercy of the Hebrew law of the levirate marrage. She was a Gentile who knew nothing about this law, but was willing to rely upon it for her future. Boaz was willing to listen to God's call for him to perform the duties of the kinsman-redeemer. And the result was that Boaz redeemed Ruth, made her his wife and they had a son. And that son would become the grandfather of King David, into whose line Jesus Christ would be born. When men and women live their lives God's way and allow their hearts to be directed by His Spirit, the outcome will always be according to His divine plan. Our obedience always results in God's blessing.

Father, thank You for redeeming me. Thank You for providing a way when I had no way out. May I never take Your love, mercy and grace for granted. Help me to be a conduit of that same love, mercy and grace to those around me, willingly sacrificing my comfort and security for the sake of others, just as Boaz did. Amen

Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands.

Ruth 1-2, Romans 1

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! – Ruth 2:12 ESV

The sovereignty of God is a difficult concept for most of us to get our hearts and minds around. The idea that He is completely in control of all things can be a comfort at times and a confusing contradiction at others. When things are going well in our lives, it seems to make sense that God is in control. But when difficulty shows up in our lives, we can either begin to wonder where God has gone or why He is doing what He is doing to us. In the story of Ruth, we find a fascinating snap shot of God's sovereignty over the lives of men. The book chronicles the life of an obscure Moabite woman, who becomes the great-grandmother of King David, and one of the few women whose names appear in the family tree of Jesus Christ found in the gospels. But along with the sovereignty of God, the book of Ruth provides a wonderful illustration of how God uses men to accomplish His divine will. As the title of Paul David Tripp's book so aptly describes them, men and women can become Instruments In the Redeemer's Hands. Even in the book of Romans we see Paul writing to the believers in Rome, expressing his sincere longing to visit them. He reveals that he has repeatedly asked God to allow him the privilege of traveling to Rome in order to spread the gospel among the Gentiles there. And little did Paul know that his prayer would be answered in the form of his arrest in Caesarea and a long and arduous boat trip to Rome under Roman guard. He would eventually get his wish and arrive in Rome, but as a prisoner. In God's sovereignty, He would arrange for Paul to get free passage to Rome as a “guest” of Caesar, with all expenses paid by the Roman government. And once there, Paul would have the opportunity to act as God's instrument in the lives of the people of Rome.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God is in control. We can't always see it and we may only be able to recognize it long after the fact. In other words, it is oftentimes in hindsight that we best see God's sovereign hand in our lives. The story of Ruth provides us with a perfect example of that fact. It gives us a 36,000-foot view of the events surrounding the lives of Elimelech, Naomi, Ruth and Boaz, allowing us to see what they could not see at the time. For Naomi, none of what was happening in her life made sense. In fact, she wrestled with God's actions, wrongly assuming that God was against her. “…the hand of the Lord has gone out against me” (Ruth 1:13 ESV). And who could blame her? She and her husband had been forced to flee from their hometown of Bethlehem because of a famine. They ended up in Moab, where she had to watch her husband and two adult sons die prematurely and unexpectedly. She was left a widow in a foreign land with no source of income and responsibility for two widowed daughters-in-law. Her conclusion, based on all that had happened to her was, “the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away very full, and the Lord has brought me back empty” (Ruth 1:20-21 ESV). Noami's take was that, “the Almighty has brought calamity upon me” (Ruth 1:21 ESV). But while her life had been difficult, her conclusion could not have been more wrong. The sovereign God of the universe was orchestrating events in such a way that what Naomi thought was a curse from God would prove to be a blessing.

Paul's desire to visit Rome and to “reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles” (Romans 1:13 ESV) was obviously from God. And yet, it would be easy to wonder where God was when Paul ended up sailing on a boat to Rome in the custody of Roman guards. He could have easily questioned God's sovereignty when faced with a perilous storm and the likelihood of shipwreck and even possible death as they made their way to Rome. But all of this was part of God's plan. And instead of questioning God, Paul determined to see himself as an instrument in the hands of the Redeemer, ministering to the men on the boat with him. And when he eventually made it safe and sound to Rome, he would continue to operate as an instrument in the Redeemer's hands, bringing help, hope and healing to all those with whom he came into contact.

What does this passage reveal about man?

One of the most encouraging and inspiring characters in the book of Ruth is that of Boaz. While Ruth is the main character and exhibits some remarkable character qualities, it is Boaz who holds the story together and best illustrates someone who sees himself as God's instrument. When he finds out about Ruth and her relationship with Naomi, he steps in. After hearing about all that had happened to Naomi and how Ruth ministered to her even in the midst of her own pain and loss, Boaz tells her, “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!” (Ruth 2:12 ESV). Boaz believed in the sovereignty of God and he also believed in the mercy, grace, and compassion of God. But he also knew that God sometimes expresses Himself through the lives of men. He understood that God had placed this woman in his field and in his life so that he might minister to her needs and becomes God's instrument to repay her, reward her, and provide refuge for her. He immediately began the process of providing for her needs and arranging for her protection. God used Boaz to bless Ruth and Naomi, just as He used Paul to bless the people of Rome. They were both conduits of God's blessing to others, willingly allowing themselves to be used by Him to redeem and restore those who were in desperate need.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

I don't always understand how God works. At times I even question His actions, wondering what in the world He thinks He is doing. But these two passages remind me that God is always in control, regardless of what I may see or think. And they also encourage me to see myself as an instrument in His hands, providing help, hope and healing to those around me. God places people in my life at key times to whom He expects me to minister. And He places people in my life from whom I unexpectedly receive His love, mercy and comfort. The moments of pain and sorrow in our lives are difficult to bear, but we must always remember that God has an overarching purpose and plan for our lives and can and does use “all things” to work together for our own good (Romans 8:28). We may not be able to see it or appreciate in the heat of the moment, but given time and perspective, we will always be able to see that God was there, ministering to us and providing for us. And the most amazing thing is that He will typically, if not always, use one of His children as an instrument of His redeeming love in our lives. Our heart's desire should be to live like Boaz and Paul, willing to be used by God and confident that He is ultimately in charge of the affairs of our life, so that we rightly conclude that there are no unexpected and unintentional moments that ever happen that He has not ordained or intends to redeem for our good and His glory.

Father, make me a Boaz for my day. Let me live like Paul, with a desire to be used by You and the perspective to see Your hand in all that happens in my life. May I live with a attitude of expectancy, willing to be used as an instrument in Your loving, redemptive hands. Amen

The Providence and Grace of God.

Ruth 3-4

Then Naomi said to her, "Just be patient, my daughter, until we hear what happens. The man won’t rest until he has followed through on this. He will settle it today." ­– Ruth 3:18 NLT

There are so many great themes in the book of Ruth: Redemption, restoration, rest, faithfulness, seed, blessing, trust, provision, and sacrifice. Yet the two that jump out at me the most are the providence and grace of God. Set in the time of the Judges, the book of Ruth is like a small light shining in a very dark place. It gives us a glimpse into the activity of God in the midst of the apostasy of Israel. Ruth, a Moabitess, is shown mercy and grace by God because of her faith in Him. In fact, she exhibits more faith in God than the people of God around her. Her life is characterized by faith and integrity, trust and obedience. Over and over again she is faithful to her mother-in-law Naomi. She faithfully obeys her. She cares for her and honors her. Ruth is a picture of what God expected from His own chosen people. And in spite of all the sorrow and misery Ruth had experienced, there is clearly a picture of the sovereign hand of God over her life. He is orchestrating events in such a way that Ruth and Naomi will not only have their needs met, they will be blessed and be a blessing for generations to come. Through Ruth, this insignificant Moabite woman, would come the greatest king Israel would ever have – David. In the middle of all the rebellion and disobedience of the people, God was working His plan to raise up a true king, a man after His own heart, through whom the ultimate King would come.

In Boaz, Ruth's kinsmen-redeemer, we have a reminder of what Jesus Christ has done for us. He redeemed or bought us at great price to Himself. He purchased us and made us His own. We have gone from spiritual poverty to great wealth. We have become heirs of all that belongs to Christ Himself. We can say, along with Zechariah, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, because he has come to help and has redeemed his people" (Luke 1:67 NET). We have been redeemed. We have been shown grace. And like Boaz, God did so for us willingly, not begrudgingly. It was His pleasure to purchase us and make us His own. He extended grace gladly and freely. And not only that, He intends to bless others through us, just like He did Ruth. In spite of the fact that we were once strangers and aliens from God, He has made us His own. "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant" (Colossians 1:21-23 NIV).

God is providentially at work in your life, behind the scenes, orchestrating events in such a way that His divine will is accomplished in your life. He is extending grace constantly, showering you with undeserved, unearned blessings each and every day. In spite of all we see going on around us, our God rules and reigns. He is in complete control. We have nothing to fear.

Father, in the darkest times You are there. When all look hopeless, You are in complete control. When I think all is lost, You are showering me with Your grace. Open my eyes. Help me to see You in the midst of it all. Help me to trust You more. Thank You for choosing me just as Boaz chose Ruth. Thank You for sacrificing for me so that I might be blessed, but also be a blessing to others. Amen


And now for something completely different!

Ruth 1-2

So Ruth went out to gather grain behind the harvesters. And as it happened, she found herself working in a field that belonged to Boaz, the relative of her father–in–law, Elimelech. ­– Ruth 2:2 NLT

I love how J. Vernon McGee refers to this little book of Ruth: "The Book of Ruth is a pearl in the swine pen of the judges." After all the stories of rape, murder, dismemberment, and moral decay, we are given, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, this unbelievable love story. But it is much more than that. It is a preface to the much greater story of God's miraculous grace. It takes place during the period of the judges (Ruth 1;1), but gives us a different view of life during that period of time. There are those who are following after God, in spite of all that we read in the book of Judges. There are still those that are following after Yahweh. The book of Ruth also redeems the reputation of Bethlehem, soiled by the stories associated with it in the closing chapters of the book of Judges. It was important to the writer that Bethlehem be presented in a more positive light because it would become the birth place of Israel's greatest king, who would happen to be a descendant of Boaz and Ruth. So this is more than a love story, it is a picture of God's sovereign grace in the midst of His peoples' open rebellion and apostasy. He was in control. Even though the story opens up with the sad news of Naomi losing her husband and her two sons in death, it reveals that God is at work behind the scenes orchestrating His divine plan to perfection. He is in control.

So much of what we see in life appears to be chance or happenstance. We write off much of what happens to us as luck – even as Christians. In reading the story of Ruth, it is easy to do the same thing. But we must keep looking for the hand of God, operating invisibly, but persistently in the lives of these men and women. Even in the face of loss and tragedy, He is there. That Naomi and her husband moved to Moab to escape the famine in the land was not chance. That her boys married two Moabite women, and that one of them was Ruth, was anything but chance. That her boys and her husband each unexpectedly dies is not chance. That Ruth is the one who willingly offers to return to the Promised Land with her widowed mother-in-law is far from luck. And that the field that Ruth should choose to go to to glean grain to feed she and her mother-in-law happened to belong to Boaz, a relative of Naomi's deceased husband – is not just happenstance.

All of this is the sovereign hand of God in the lives of these two women. He is directing their path and preparing their way. Naomi ended up in Boaz's field because God ordained it to be. To Ruth and Naomi it all appeared like good fortune and a positive turn in their otherwise sad affairs. But it was so much more. God was doing so much greater than simply providing a meal for two destitute widows. He was preparing His plan for the future of His people – even though they were living in rebellion and disobedience. What grace! What mercy! What a God!

What is so amazing about our God is His ability to use anyone and anything to accomplish His will. Ruth was a Moabitess, not a Jew. Yet she came to love the people of God and the God of the people. She developed a fond affection for Yahweh. Her position as a Gentile and a pagan did not prevent God from using her to bring about His sovereign plan for His people and, ultimately, for mankind. Ruth, like you and I, was not deserving of God's grace. She was outside the family of God, but God included her. God used her. God blessed her. And He is doing so with you and me today.

Father, Your grace truly is amazing. Amen