#3 (THE "BOOK OF RUTH" SERIES)
TEXT: Ruth 3:1-18
INTRO: Did you hear about the farmer that never had time to plant his Spring crops and yet in the Fall he was able to reap a great harvest of wheat from his fields -- or the man who received the "employee of the month" award from a company he worked at but who was lazy and never did any work for them?
Of course not! … Because they never happened! Why did neither one of these happen, because in both cases the farmer and the lazy man never did the work in order to reap the reward!
In order to reap, either we or someone has to have sown first! This law is followed in all of nature by both man and beast! It is a law of the universe; it is a law of God!
PROP SENT: The Bible teaches us that when we sow in righteousness we reap God's best in our lives, and we also bring God's best to others!
I. CONFIDENCE OF A REAPER! 3:1-6
A. Providence 3:1-2
1. As Naomi's bitterness began to die away due to the love of Ruth and her constant ministry to Naomi, Naomi came to realize that she needed to quit focusing on just her own loss and start thinking about Ruth's losses also.
a. Ruth's faithfulness and
self-sacrificing had made an impact on Naomi as well as the whole town of
b. Ruth’s faithfulness was creating a desire in others to do something for her.
c. This is an important concept; our needs are best met when we meet other people’s needs first!
2. Because of her servant's heart God was at work providentially in her life, it was no accident that she had gone to Boaz's field although she knew nothing about him, it was all part of God's design!
a. God had witnessed Ruth's steadfast love for others, especially Naomi, and He was about to reward Ruth.
b. God takes great delight in blessing those who sow in righteousness!
3. The very service she had rendered to her mother in law in taking care of her would now return to her through her mother in law taking care of her!
a. This was God's hand at work through Naomi and others.
b. Ruth had only made herself available to serve, and this had brought the attention of God to bear on her as well as the attention of just about everyone else!
c. The world still takes notice of true servants!
ILLUS: A VERY CONSECRATED JEWISH BELIEVER NAMED DR. MAX REICH SHARED THIS STORY ABOUT HIS LIFE. "WHEN MY WIFE AND I WERE FIRST MARRIED WE FELT CALLED TO FULL TIME CHRISTIAN SERVICE. GOD BLESSED OUR MINISTRY AND MANY PEOPLE WERE SAVED. ALTHOUGH MONEY WAS TIGHT AND OUR WORLDLY POSSESSIONS WERE FEW, WE WERE FULL OF JOY. ONE DAY HOWEVER, MY WIFE SAID THAT WE WERE OUT OF FOOD, THERE WAS NOTHING FOR DINNER. I DIDN'T REPLY AT FIRST BUT STOOD LISTENING TO THE BIRDS SINGING IN THE TREES. SUDDENLY THESE WORDS FROM A WELL-KNOWN SONG FLASHED THROUGH MY MIND 'HIS EYE IS ON THE SPARROW, AND I KNOW HE WATCHES ME.' IMMEDIATELY I SAID, 'IF OUR HEAVENLY FATHER FEEDS THE BIRDS, SURELY HE'LL TAKE CARE OF US!' JUST THEN A LADY KNOCKED AT THE DOOR. AFTER INTRODUCING HERSELF SHE SAID, 'MY HUSBAND WAS A HOPELESS ALCOHOLIC. EVERY TIME HE GOT HIS CHECK HE'D SPEND MOST OF IT TO GET DRUNK, SO THE CHILDREN AND I WERE OFTEN HUNGRY. RECENTLY HE HEARD YOU PREACH THE GOSPEL, AND THE LORD WORKED A MIRACLE IN HIS HEART. NOW HE'S A CHANGED MAN! FOR THE FIRST TIME IN YEARS HE BROUGHT HOME A FULL WEEK'S PAY AND I WAS ABLE TO GET A GOOD SUPPLY OF GROCERIES. I THOUGHT AS I WAS COOKING, PART OF THIS FOOD REALLY BELONGS TO BROTHER REICH. I WAS GOING TO BRING YOU SOME LATER BUT I FELT COMPELLED TO DO IT IMMEDIATELY. HERE'S HALF OF THE CHICKEN I FRIED AND SOME BISCUITS FRESH FROM THE OVEN!' 'WE WERE SO HAPPY,' SAID DR. REICH, THAT WE SANG, 'PRAISE GOD FROM WHOM ALL BLESSINGS FLOW!' FAITHFUL SOWING HAD REAPED A BLESSING! -- Source Unknown
4. Naomi surely recognized God's sovereign hand in Ruth's contact with Boaz and she surely understood that Ruth's example of servanthood would bring her a special blessing too!
B. Plans 3:3-6
1. Though Naomi saw God's hand at work she also realized that it is necessary to be responsible and make plans consistent with what God is doing!
a. It is not enough to just sit back and let God do all the work!
b. Naomi realizes that while God is certainly at work there are things she and Ruth can and should do that are consistent with what God is doing and where God is moving.
2. This is an important principle for us to grasp in our walk with God and doing His will!
a. Failure on Ruth and Naomi's part to act in accordance with the direction God was moving might have meant delay or loss.
b. We are still responsible when we are trusting God, to act in consistent ways with what His revealed will is!
3. So Naomi comes up with a plan that is consistent with what she realizes is God's plan for Ruth.
a. Notice the confidence of both Naomi and Ruth, confidence that God is acting on their behalf.
b. Confidence that if they made plans that agree with God's will these plans will succeed!
4. Note too the confidence of Ruth in Naomi's judgment and understanding of both God's ways and Jewish culture that is consistent with God's revealed will at that time!
a. Naomi's plans were fully consistent with proper etiquette of that time period and were considered proper, they were not sexually suggestive as might be interpreted by our culture today.
b. Naomi's plans had good timing involved too, when Boaz would be most relaxed and in a good mood!
c. Naomi's plan avoided any possible sexual context to Ruth's offer to be Boaz's wife by staying only at his feet, this would avoid any possible moral compromise.
5. The plan kept moral dignity in place and it honored God, it served to minister to others and was a genuine offer to make a life long commitment ... it was a good plan, one God would and could bless and was consistent with where His will was taking Ruth … and Naomi!
a. Good plans give the Lord great opportunities to show His power through our lives!
b. The lack of good plans may keep God's power in our life confusing to us and others!
ILLUS: ONLY 3% OF ALL PEOPLE HAVE GOALS AND PLANS AND WRITE THEN DOWN. 1O% MORE HAVE GOALS AND PLANS BUT KEEP THEN IN THEIR HEADS. THE REST, OR 87% DRIFT THROUGH LIFE WITHOUT DEFINITE GOALS OR PLANS. THESE DON'T USUALLY KNOW WHERE THEY ARE GOING AND OTHERS OFTEN DICTATE TO THEN THE COURSE OF THEIR LIVES. NOW FOR THE RESULTS: THE 3% WHO HAVE GOALS AND PLANS THAT ARE WRITTEN DOWN ACCOMPLISH FROM 5O TO 100 TIMES MORE DURING THEIR LIFETIMES THAN THE 10% WHO HAVE GOALS AND PLANS AND MERELY KEEP THEM IN THEIR HEADS, WHAT DO YOU THINK THE DIFFERENCE IS THEN FROM THOSE WHO HAVE NO PLANS, NOT EVEN IN THEIR HEADS!? -- Source Unknown
6. Notice Ruth's response to Naomi's plan:
a. "I will do whatever you say!"
b. "So she went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother in law told her to do!"
(1. She didn't accept it in word only, but also in action … the stuff of real faith.
(2. She obeyed completely in trust (faith).
(3. This was an obvious sign of great trust and love toward Naomi and God!
7. Ruth was confident in both God and Naomi, this is the fruit of love and faith!
II. CHARACTER OF A REAPER 3:7-15
A. Pure! 3:7-9
1. Ruth's actions are carefully pure and moral.
a. She does not eat and drink with him or reveal herself so that nothing familiar builds that would make lying at his feet later misconstrued!
b. When she does lay down, she does so dressed and at his feet, not next to his body. There are no false signals given this way!
c. She uncovers his feet to identify her willingness to be his bride and possibly to cause him to wake up to find her presence there!
d. When he wakes (he is frightened in the dark ... robbers might come at night to steal grain!) so she immediately identifies herself and makes her simple request: for him to take the corner of his garment and cover her, an act which would clearly indicate his willingness to accept her availability for marriage to him!
e. There was nothing improper about her request; it was strictly a moral act acceptable in this culture at this time. It was devoid of questionable sexual overtones and had clear moral guidelines. While certainly different from our own culture and way of “proposing” it was not morally unclean, just different.
f. At no time does Ruth do anything that could be misconstrued in any way, her purity is obvious, she honors God and the culture of that day! (We honor God by following our culture too when we get the piece of paper that shows we are married in our secular society!)
2. This was about the only way a young woman of that day could make a marriage proposal to a man and still allow the man to be viewed in the leading role!
a. She does it in a way that honored God by her purity.
b. She does it in a way that gives honor to the culture of her day though she came from a very different culture!
3. Ruth does not insist on doing things her way, she just wants to do things right! This is the heart of a true reaper and a person of purity!
4. Ruth's reputation stays intact; she is considered a “noble woman!”
ILLUS: YEARS AGO
THE COMMUNIST GOVERNMENT IN
5. Ruth's desire was to reestablish the line of Elimelech and to take care of Naomi.
a. Thus, even her motives were pure!
b. She is completely unselfish in her service here!
B. Priorities! 3:10-15
1. Boaz's statement here that "this kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier…" is not speaking about her kindness to Boaz, it is a reference to Ruth's earlier commitment to Naomi in meeting her needs, and now a willingness on Ruth's part to marry a “kinsman-redeemer” to permanently take care of Naomi's need and to raise up her dead husband's family name again by marrying Boaz, thus a greater act of sacrifice now than before!
a. This is made clear also by the reference to the fact that she could have married any young man in town rich or poor, rather than come to Boaz who was probably quite a bit older!
b. Her willingness to bypass the younger men in town for husbands and instead take Boaz because he is a relative indicates that she had made it a priority in her life to do what was right for God and His people rather than fulfill her own desires!
2. Ruth had put her own desires on the back burner ... her thoughts were for others!
a. As was evidenced in her willingness
to leave her homeland of
b. As was evidenced in her willingness to work the fields for Naomi's needs.
c. As was evidenced in her willingness to seek out a proper kinsman-redeemer rather than some other young man from town!
d. As was evidenced by her willingness to obey everything Naomi had asked her to do!
e. As was evidenced by her putting the God of Israel first over the gods of Moab, her obedience to accept God and reject idols.
3. She was not ashamed to do what was right over what she wanted personally!
ILLUS: ON ONE
4. Ruth's priorities were quite clear ... Boaz is amazed at her, how many Jews in Israel at that time showed the same kind of commitment to God and His people like this foreigner had!?
5. Boaz signals her that he is clearly willing to marry her; everyone knows she is a “woman of noble character.” The Hebrew word here is the same as that used in Prov. 31:10, the passage about the "ideal woman" or “virtuous woman”.
a. His statement about her being known as a “noble woman” was probably a way of reassuring her that though she is a Moabitess the town Elders will no doubt approve of her because of her example and reputation!
b. What she had sown as an example will now reap great benefits!
c. Her proven character had won the day!
6. Boaz does tell her however that there is someone else who can make a greater claim on her if he chooses ... and he is willing to be obedient too to do what is right, but no matter how it goes he will make sure she will be taken care of!
a. He is adamant about helping her, either by getting the other “kinsman-redeemer” to take her or else he will!
b. His statement "as surely as the Lord lives, I will do it!" gives clear indication that at the very least she will get him! (Which I’m sure she prayed would happen!)
7. Desiring to protect her good name he instructs her to leave before sunrise so that no possible misconceptions about her visit that night is made by anyone! While they knew nothing had transpired they also knew how quickly gossip travels and how easily misconceptions form from what people think they see.
a. It is also possible that he was following a law that is mentioned later in the Jewish Mishnah that if a man sleeps with a Gentile before marrying her they cannot have a proper Levirate marriage even if they were only suspected of having sex.
b. Knowing this perhaps, Boaz does not want to destroy her chances for a recognized and proper marriage so he sends her away early and asks her not to mention that she had been there. It was NOT an attempt at a cover up of immorality.
c. It is more a matter of protecting her reputation and future than trying to be sneaky – he knew well how the rumor and gossip mill worked, just as it does today!
III. CONTENTMENT OF A REAPER! 3:16-18
A. Provision -17
1. Boaz does not send her home empty handed however, he gives her grain for both her and Naomi’s needs, these “6 measures” weighed about 88 lbs!
a. "He put it on her” (3:15b) indicating she probably carried this on her head, she was a strong woman!
b. This was no small amount of provision, and no small feat to carry it on her head!
c. Ruth was reaping what she had sown many times over!
2. All the years of faithful service and dedicated commitment to God and His people were being honored by God providing for her and Naomi in abundant ways!
a. God delights in taking care of His faithful servants!
b. Ruth and Naomi are quite content, though the poor of that day often had a rough life their lives had become full of abundance thanks to Ruth’s selfless love!
3. There can be little doubt about the excitement and joy evidenced here in both Ruth and Naomi as they see an end to their poverty!
4. This could never have come about if Ruth hadn't willingly given of herself over and over again, always putting what was right ahead of what she personally might have wanted! Reaping rewards comes only from giving first!
ILLUS: A HIKER WAS
THIRSTY FOR WATER BUT COULD FIND NONE UNTIL HE CAME UPON AN ABANDONED
HOUSE. THERE HE FOUND A PUMP, BUT
THOUGH HE PUMPED FEVERISHLY NO WATER CAME FORTH. THEN HE SAW A SMALL JUG WITH A
5. Reapers tend to be contented people because they have the confidence that God will help them since they have been obedient to the Lord and therefore have trust in Him!
1. Naomi and Ruth only had to wait now to see how God would take care of them!
a. The promise had been given by Boaz, one way or another their needs were going to be met!
b. Ruth could sit back and relax and wait and see what God was going to do, she had already done her part!
2. Naomi realizes that Boaz is on the trail to get things done, she knows that the future is looking bright again! “Then Naomi said, "Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today."
3. God's promises are true! God is meeting the needs of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz! All because Ruth was faithful and sowed a righteous life!
4. Ruth was now Reaping!!!
CONCLUSION: Everyone loves being a reaper of blessings, but not everyone understands that the business of reaping only follows the process of sowing! Ruth's reaping was the result of sowing faithfulness, unselfishness, and concern for others along with a deep commitment to the God of Israel! What kind of harvest can you expect in your life -- what have you been sowing!?