Dear radio friends,
As we return to our series on the book of Ruth we come today to the second chapter. In this chapter we are going to see a very beautiful and powerful word to us of God’s almighty care and kind providence. One picture is worth a thousand words, we say. So the Scriptures teach us in word that the almighty God controls all things for good to them that love Him. But in this chapter we do not have that truth stated in words but in the life of His children. We have not, then, a written declaration of the blessed truth of God’s providence directing all things for our good; but we have that truth acted out before our very eyes. God, out of His unwavering love and unchangeable grace, did work all things for good for two helpless, poor, lonely widows. In fact, God was working far beyond what they even knew – far beyond them. He was working for all of His people – for you and for me. He was controlling all things so that Jesus Christ would come.
But I need to stress to you that the experience of this wonderful care of God is given to Naomi and Ruth at home, that is, in the church. We saw in chapter one that God brought Naomi home again. Naomi and her husband had sinfully departed from the land of Canaan under a famine to sojourn in Moab. There God had chastised them. Now Naomi has returned home as a widow. Her husband and her two sons are dead. But God, in mercy, has brought with her Ruth, a believing child of God. While they were in Moab, God surely cared for Naomi and Ruth. He never left them. But Naomi’s experience then was the experience of chastisement. God, now, has worked in Naomi that she does not want to continue in her sin of separating herself from the body of Jesus Christ. And, as she returns to Bethlehem, back home again where she belongs, she will now experience the wonder of God’s amazing care. When our way of sin holds us, and if we begin to say, “But I can enjoy communion with God off on my own, away from the church, and I can still have the comfort that everything is working together for my good in the hands of God,” then we are just boasting. That is just a lot of air, because we cannot experience that wonder if we are in the way of sin. It is only when, by grace, the child of God walks in the way of repentance that he can also experience this wonderful blessing that God is ordering and controlling every detail of his life for his eternal good.
The theme of Ruth 2 is really expressed in the twelfth verse, the words of Boaz to Ruth: “The LORD recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.” Ruth trusted in the Lord her God.
Desperately poor now and without husbands to provide for them, Naomi and Ruth have come to Bethlehem, a village that was just recovering from a devastating famine. Looking at the world through Naomi’s eyes, everything appeared dark and heavy. The hope of her life was dashed. Her husband and two sons were buried. The home she returns to in Bethlehem is no doubt in shambles, bearing the effect of fifteen years of neglect. Many memories flood her mind of what had been. And now, she fights back despair and hopelessness. Can you relate to that? Perhaps this is how you see your life today. You see that the future is only dark and bleak and, apparently, God is taking away from you all things and leaving you with nothing in its place.
It was in that setting that the faith of Ruth spoke out. She says to her mother-in-law, “Let me now go to the field and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace.” Ruth takes action, not waiting for her mother-in-law to ask. Apparently Naomi cannot even make plans yet. Ruth will do something. She does that because it was indeed true, as Boaz will say, that she had come to trust under the wings of the almighty God. That is a very beautiful expression in the Scriptures. You will find it often in the Psalms (Ps. 17:8; 36:7; 57:1; 91:4 – “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler”). It is a very beautiful expression of the child of God in times of distress and of the perfect safety and refuge that is to be experienced in trusting in God. The figure is that of a large bird, perhaps an eagle, with little chicks scurrying for protection under the wings of the eagle and close to her breast to be consoled and quieted from their fears.
When it is said that Ruth, by the grace of God, had come to trust under the wings of Jehovah, it means that by faith she believed the overshadowing protection of the divine power of God and of His faithfulness in Jesus Christ. It implied that she believed that an atonement had been made for her sins and that, in that way of atonement, she had also received, by faith, the assurance that God had become her father for Christ’s sake. Therefore, she could trust, she could rely entirely upon God to provide all things necessary for her.
Do you know that? Do you take that into account today in all of your surmising of the future? Whatever the situation of your life? Maybe your burden is very plain and visible. It is sickness. It is loneliness. It is abandonment. It is a wayward child. It is untold difficulties at work. Or, maybe, your way of difficulty is something that is hidden and that you want to keep from your loved ones in an attempt to protect them – to be strong – but it is a great burden to you. The Word of God says, Trust. Under the shadow of His wings! Stop and take stock. Do not look simply upon the world as seen in your eyes. Do not make your evaluation. But, by faith, look up. See the almighty God who surrounds His children with eternal power and unfailing love.
It was very striking that Ruth’s trust in God led her to activity. She did exactly what God gave her to do at that time – she went out to glean in the field in order that she and her mother-in-law might have something to eat. Now, gleaning the field was something that God had instituted in that day and was to be observed at every harvest. God had said in Deuteronomy 24 and in the book of Leviticus that when the children of Israel reaped the harvest of their land, they must not make a clean riddance of the corners of the field when they reaped, but they must leave behind for the poor and for the stranger. They had to do this because He was the Lord their God. In any harvest, some of the seed is missed and falls to the ground. God said to the farmer of Israel, “Leave it there. Allow the poor and the widow and the stranger to come and pick it up for their own food.” God was saying to the farmer, “That seed, that harvest, that corn, that kernel, it is not yours. It’s Mine. I gave it to you and to others.” So God, in a very marvelous way, was teaching that He was the almighty who supplied the needs of all of His children.
Ruth’s trust in God led her to activity.
Ruth trusted in God. And trusting in God, she did the next thing. She took action. She did not adopt a “sit and wait” attitude. She did not impose her will upon providence. She did not say, “Well, Lord, if Thou art able to provide for me, then this is the way it has to be done. And until it is done this way, I will just sit and wait.” No. She went out to glean in the fields. There was a matter-of-factness about her faith. It was the next thing to do. That was what needed to be done at that moment. And so she went out and did it.
She did that out of trust in Jehovah her God, who would, He had promised, provide for all of her needs. And God did. For God led her to the field of Boaz. That was very significant. Boaz stands in the line of the promise of Jesus Christ, that is, a direct descendant in the line of Judah, out of which tribe God had promised to bring the Lord Jesus Christ. God was working out a beautiful purpose – far beyond even the daily needs of Naomi and Ruth. He was working out the purpose of His salvation for all of His children of all ages.
But God also provided in a kind and merciful providence for Ruth and for her mother-in-law. He did so through the agency of a man. God used the instrumentality of flesh and blood to show His kindness to Ruth and Naomi. Ruth comes to glean in the field of Boaz. And Boaz sees to it that she is not hampered in her task by his workers, in fact, that she can drink of their water and refresh herself with their food. That is a very beautiful thing. God showed His kindness to Ruth and Naomi through the instrumentality of flesh and blood. God did it for sure. But God used His own people and servants as His own hand.
God uses means, instrumentality, to bless us. He could send angels, I suppose. Heavenly beings could suddenly appear at our doorstep with bundles of mercy. But you and I being creatures of this dust would stand there in utter shock and amazement and get all caught up with wonder about angels and fail to see the great gift of God. No, God does it through brothers and sisters in the Lord, whom the Lord calls “angels.” (In the book of Hebrews we read, “be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for some have entertained angels unawares.”) Have you entertained an angel once? Oh, that angel might not have looked like an angel with feathers and wings. It might have been the deacon. It might have been some child of God who knew that you were experiencing a way of difficulty and trial and out of the love of God came to you in your trouble, saw your weary eyes, and asked if he could pray with you, or asked if there was something that he could do, or simply did it for you. God supplies His kindness to us through His children. God used Boaz.
God used His own people
and servants as His own hand.
I said that was very significant, for Boaz was in the line of Christ. His name means, “in Him is strength.” That was a confession of Boaz’s spiritual character. He believed that in God was his strength. He was a man of God.
In this chapter, we see that he conducted himself as a man of God in his stewardship. He was a man of great integrity in his business operations. Boaz was not a kind of supposed believer who claimed that there is a division between the secular and the religious. But, as the owner and the master of his business, he viewed every aspect of his life as a place of faith, where his faith was to rule and dictate.
Secondly, we see that Boaz was a man whose heart was interested in the kingdom of God. For, he knew of Ruth. He tells her, when they meet in the field that day, that it had been fully shown to him all that Ruth had done for her mother-in-law since the death of her husband. And that he knew that Ruth had left her father and mother in Moab – the land of her nativity – and had come to a people that she did not know hithertofore. That is, what caught the eye of Boaz about Ruth was her spiritual exploits. Ruth, we have no reason to doubt, was an attractive woman. But that which attracted the mind and heart of Boaz to her was the great work of grace in her heart and already the spiritual exploits of faith that she had performed. This thrilled his heart.
Through Boaz the wonderful kindness of God came into the lives of Ruth and Naomi. He took note of her and, as I said, he saw to it that she could reap in his fields without being hampered.
And Ruth responds in this chapter with great thanks. She is very thankful for his kindness to her. She is not the kind of woman who is loud and demanding and says, “Well, I have a right because of my oppression, because of my status. I deserve high rank. I have all of this coming.” No, Ruth is humble because she trusts in the wings of God. She knows that she deserves nothing. And when she knows that she deserves nothing, even the smallest things become a wonder to her. God is so gracious, God is so thoughtful.
Is that true for you? Do you see that God is so gracious and so thoughtful because you truly believe that you deserve nothing? When you truly believe that then your eyes become large in wonder over whatever God is pleased to give you.
At the end of the day Ruth returned to Naomi and reported the blessings that God had given to her. We see them sitting down for their little supper – the two widows talking together – and Ruth giving Naomi a full account of all of the events of that day. She had come home with twenty-five pounds of barley. That was a staggering amount. That is how much she had reaped in one day. (You try to gather twenty-five pounds of seed, walking behind an International harvester in the fall in Iowa.) Twenty-five pounds! God had provided abundantly. And then she told Naomi that God’s goodness had come to her through a man called Boaz, for Naomi asked her, “Where did you glean today?” And she said, “This man’s name with whom I wrought was Boaz.” And Naomi responds, “Blessed be he of the Lord, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead.” You see, Naomi knew that Boaz was in her husband’s ancestry, was a relative of her husband. And she knew that Boaz was a man who stood in the line to redeem her land and possibly to marry Ruth. In all of this Naomi begins to see a ray of hope breaking through the clouds. She sees God’s grace breaking through her gloom. This is far too much, she reasons, for coincidence. The staggering fruit of gleaning – twenty-five pounds – and now the possibility of redemption! For Boaz is a man who could redeem her land, and who is called also then to marry Ruth. What, but the hand of God’s mercy, could arrange all of this? It was God’s work from the beginning to the end. Naomi had been despairing. But now she sees a clear picture of the almighty God and His grace to work all things for good.
Do you? Do you, as a woman? Do you, as a man, as a child, as a boy or girl? We certainly experience our times of darkness and weariness, when we believe our hope is ended and all is bleak and our burdens are too great – the burdens of widowhood, the burdens of sickness, leukemia, loneliness, the heart-ache over impenitent children. There are many burdens that we carry. You carry a burden today too. Sometimes you say, “There is no answer, there is no hope for my burden.” This is our confidence, a confidence that will never put us to shame: Under His wings I am safely abiding. God is working great things for me. He is working great things for me and for you through the burdens.
If you doubt that, if you insist that before you can trust in Him you must first be given the details of exactly how it is all going to turn out for your good, then you had better go to the book of Job and hear the rebuke of God: “Were you with Me,” says God, “when I formed the world? Did I consult with you when I determined the goal of all things?” Who are you that you should question the almighty God? No, it is our place humbly to bow in marvelous wonder and to believe through Jesus Christ that God is working all things out of an unwavering love, out of an unflinching purpose. God will glorify Himself in Jesus Christ. And He will glorify His church in and through all things. All things work together for good to them that love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Trust under the shadow of His wings.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee and praise Thee for Thou are great and glorious. Thou art the one true God who, in Thy power, upholds all things and so directs them that they must serve Thy purpose. Thou art the God of grace who has purposed to save and glorify Thy church. May this blessed truth be the comfort and the rejoicing of our souls. In Jesus’ name, Amen.