I am so excited about getting to meet with my Sunday School class this week at Southern Calvert Baptist Church. I have not been in the class for the past 4 Sundays due to ministry work in South Asia. I was so blessed to have members of the church fill in for me while God directed me to teach the Word in a difficult area of the world. This Sunday, as we are walking through the entire Bible in a three year period, we have come to the Old Testament book of Ruth. We have been tracing the line of the Messiah from Genesis and we have found Jesus in every book of the Bible. This week, we are going to learn how a Gentile pagan chooses to believe in the coming Messiah and come under the protection of the Lord. It is an amazing story for us Gentiles.
Naomi was born under the protection of the Lord. She had learned the Word of God from a very young age. Her husband was also born under the protection of the Lord. Yet, during a difficult time in Israel’s history, the entire family chose to leave the protection of the Lord and go to a foreign land full of pagan people who did not know God. While there, Naomi’s two sons married pagan women. Although this was a forbidden act in the Word of God, this led to the Gospel reaching one of those pagan women. While living among the pagans, things go from bad to worse. Naomi’s husband and her two sons die. She is a widow along with her two pagan daughters-in-law.
6 Then she arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the land of Moab, for she had heard in the land of Moab that the LORD had visited His people in giving them food.
7 So she departed from the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah.
8 And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the LORD deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the dead and with me. (Ruth 1)
After this tragic event, Naomi comes to her senses and chooses to return to the protection of the Lord in Israel. No matter how bad things are, we can return to the Lord. The prodigal son is a prime example of this. Naomi loves her daughters-in-law and out of that love, she wants to send them back to their families so that they can remarry and live their lives. Naomi was familiar with the teachings of the Word of God. She knew of the law of the brother-in-law as laid out in Deuteronomy 25. If a man married and died before producing an heir, the man’s brother was to marry his widowed sister-in-law and produce an heir for his brother. The inheritance of the deceased brother was to go to the first male child that the new marriage produced. Naomi’s daughters-in-law were going to have to wait for Naomi to remarry, produce a male child, that male child was to grow up and marry the wife of the oldest brother and then produce his brother’s heir. Then, Naomi would have to produce another son and he would marry the widow of the deceased younger brother and produce an heir. Naomi was passed child bearing age so, if the girls were to return to Israel with Naomi, basically, they were resolving themselves to be widows for the rest of their lives. Naomi is thinking about the benefits of her daughters-in-law and not about herself. One of the daughters-in-law chooses to go back to her family, remarry, and live out the rest of her days outside of the protection of the Lord. The other daughter-in-law, Ruth, was willing to sacrifice her future to care for her mother-in-law. Naomi and Ruth are two selfless people who had a desire to serve others. Are you living your life to serve others? Or, are you living your life to be served by others. Jesus calls His followers to imitate Him in all things, including the fact that He came to serve instead of being served. This is a picture of what genuine faith in the Messiah leads us to do. Have you placed your faith in the Messiah as Naomi did? Are you seeking to live under the protection of the Lord no matter what? If you have run from the Lord, as long as you are alive, you can return to His protection.
As we have already seen, Ruth was not born under the protection of the Lord but, somewhere along the way, the teachings that she received from her mother-in-law, Naomi, impacted her. When faced with a difficult choice, she chooses to come under the protection of the Lord and serve Naomi above her own desires.
16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back 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.
17 “Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.”
18 When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her. (Ruth 1)
The above verses are often quoted at weddings but, they are actually a pledge of one woman to serve the woman who led her to faith in the Messiah. Ruth definitely has an attitude of gratitude. Do you have an attitude of gratitude? There are many examples in the Bible of people who did not have an attitude of gratitude. There are few who did. I want to be one of the few who learns gratitude and practices it daily. Naomi taught it to Ruth and Ruth learned the lesson.
And 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.” (Ruth 2:2)
We also discover that Ruth is familiar with the teachings of the Word of God. Ruth is familiar with the law of reaping the harvest in Leviticus 19. The farmers were to leave part of the harvest on the vine so that the poor and needy in society could come and glean food for themselves. There were no free handouts in Israel. The people did not try to eradicate poverty because it is impossible. Instead, the poor had to work for food, which is eloquently explained by the Apostle Paul in II Thessalonians. The person who does not work, does not eat either. Ruth is led by the Lord to Boaz’s field. God had already been preparing Boaz to be Ruth and Naomi’s “savior”. Boaz is also going to be a picture of the Messiah, the One who is going to save His people from their sins.
“And she said, ‘Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.’ Thus she came and has remained from the morning until now; she has been sitting in the house for a little while.” (Ruth 2:7)
In this verse, we discover that Ruth is a hard worker. This is another trait of one who has come under the protection of the Lord. Are you a hard worker in all that you do? Do you do everything as unto the Lord?
Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your sight that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” (Ruth 2:10)
Ruth continues to express her gratitude. Grateful people do not simply feel gratitude, they express it to others. Do you express your gratitude to people who do things for you? Are you teaching your children to be grateful through your own example?
“May the LORD reward your work, and your wages be full from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.” (Ruth 2:12)
This is the secret to Ruth’s character. She has chosen to seek refuge under the wings of the Lord, the God of Israel, because He is the Only God. Ruth’s relationship with God is evident. She lives it out every single day. Does your relationship with God manifest itself in your daily life? Do the people around you know that you have chosen to seek refuge under the wings of the Lord, the God of Israel?
Boaz is a foreshadowing of the Lord Jesus Christ. Boaz was prepared by the Lord to be the savior of Ruth and then, through his union with Ruth, eventually produce the Messiah, the Savior of the world.
Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem and said to the reapers, “May the LORD be with you.” And they said to him, “May the LORD bless you.” (Ruth 2:4)
Boaz has a personal relationship with the Lord and that relationship impacts his relationships with others. He is open about his faith as he shares with his employees. He lives to be a blessing for others. We also know that Boaz is familiar with the teachings of the Bible because he allows the poor to glean in his fields. Not only does he know of the laws of the Lord, he also obeys the laws of the Lord.
8 Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Listen carefully, my daughter. Do not go to glean in another field; furthermore, do not go on from this one, but stay here with my maids.
9 “Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Indeed, I have commanded the servants not to touch you. When you are thirsty, go to the water jars and drink from what the servants draw.” (Ruth 2)
Boaz extends mercy and grace to Ruth. His relationship with God impacts all the relationships in his life, even the way that he interacts with strangers. Jesus Christ is going to come through Boaz and Ruth’s marriage in order to extend God’s mercy and grace to the world, the same way that Boaz does for Ruth. Do you extend the mercy and grace of God to the people around you through the message of the Gospel? Are you open about your faith? How do you treat strangers?
So, what about you my dear friend, ave you chosen to come under the protection of the Lord God? How is your relationship with God impacting the other relationships in your life? In your family? At work? At church? In society? Are you a hard worker who lives to serve the Lord by serving others? Are you extended the mercy and grace of the Lord to the people around you? Are you a person who has an attitude of gratitude? What changes do you need to make based on this lesson?