God’s providence is working in the ordinary events of our lives to bring about His favor (grace) for all those who take refuge under His wings.
Good morning, if you have your Bibles please turn to Ruth Chapter 1:
Almost all of chapter one is loss and sorrow and bitterness. Ruth and Naomi are in their dark night of the soul. Husbands have died, sons have died, wombs have remained barren. But at the very end of chapter one there is a glimmer of hope that their sorrow will soon turn to joy. This is where we pick up this morning.
22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.
2 Now Naomi had a relative of her husband’s, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. 2 And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.”
This is the main idea of our text today. Ruth is in search of favor. And everyone of us in this room today are in desperate need of God’s favor in our lives. And what we will discover is that those who seek His favor will find it through mysterious means.
And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” 3 So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech. 4 And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you!” And they answered, “The Lord bless you.”
5 Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” 6 And the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, “She is the young Moabite woman, who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. 7 She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.’ So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest.”
8 Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. 9 Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.”
10 Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” 11 But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. 12 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!” 13 Then she said, “I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants.”
If you read Ruth 2 in the wrong way you begin to think, wow…Ruth was really lucky. She arrives in Bethlehem at the barley harvest…what luck. She wanders into the field of the one man who could redeem her. What are the odds? That man, from all the people in the field happens to single her out and by the end of the day this destitute woman has had brought home a week’s worth of gleaning, eaten her fill, had so much food offered to her that she actually 打包s her meal and carries it to Naomi. You don’t get any luckier than this.
But if you’re a person of the Word, you realize that life isn’t random, that luck doesn’t guide your days (which is comforting), that the works of God are at play here. What you find is the hand of God guiding all events in order to bring His favor to His people.
Now I must give a warning here because so many people misunderstand the favor of God.
Favor doesn’t promise an easy life, it promises something better…that all events are moving us into the presence of God, to experience the glory of God, by beholding the face of God, and encountering the kindness of God in all circumstances: the good and the bad. Joseph was favored and thrown in prison. David was favored and still pursued by Saul. Don’t confuse the favor of God with life working out the way you want.
Secondly, favor is always unmerited. It’s not a favor if it’s something you are required to do. You don’t go to your boss and say, “Can you do me a really big favor today?” What is it? “You know those 40 hours I worked this week, could you possibly pay me for that.” That’s not a favor, that a wage.
And sometimes we treat the favor of God as if it’s a wage…as if you could earn God’s favor.
Favor is not something that is earned it is freely given. It is a gift given to us only because of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, not because of anything we do and the way we receive it is the same way Ruth received it…to take refuge under the wings of Christ.
Ruth is an unsuspecting recipient of favor. Ruth the Moabite, whose people paid off Balaam to curse the people of Israel and enticed them into sexual sin, whose people, because of this action were cast out of the Lord’s assembly for 10 generations, who would have thought that Ruth the Moabite would receive favor from God? No one, but she did. What a beautiful picture of grace…Though you have been cast out of God’s presence because of your sin, banned from his assembly, grace finds a way to bring in those who have no hope of entering.
God did not give her favor because she deserved it, but because He delighted in giving it. The same is true for us this morning. God delights to show His favor to all those who take refuge under His wings.
And the way that works out is through something we call providence, which is a fancy word that describes God’s plan to give His children favor. And remember…retrain your brain, favor simply means, God blessing us with Himself.
This morning I want us to look at the providence of God in the life of Ruth and Naomi. And in turn we will see it in our own lives as well. He is behind the scenes, bring favor to those who take refuge under His wings.
The first thing we must come to understand is that:
God is providential over time. 1:22
22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.
Why did they not arrive a month earlier or two months later? Because God has been orchestrating these events so that they would arrive precisely when they needed to arrive. If they arrive too soon, these hungry women would have nothing to glean…they’d only be able to go to the fields and stare at a bunch of dirt.
If they arrive too late, again they have nothing to glean, their chance for provision is over.
The timing of their arrival to Bethlehem was providential
And God was doing more than just feeding them a meal. Favor goes beyond what’s expected. God has BIG plans that he will execute through the barley harvest. This will be the means by which Ruth meets Boaz. Which in turn will lead to their marriage. Which in turn will lead to a child. Which in turn will eventually lead to Jesus. Which will lead to Ruth’s salvation. ALL because they arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest. God’s timing is impeccable.
But that’s not the only instance where we see God working it out to the exact moment:
The timing of Boaz’s arrival to the field was providential
3 So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech. 4 And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem.
Now that’s a key word there. BEHOLD, the narrator is telling us to pay attention…this is no mere coincidence. Boaz shows up exactly when Ruth needs him to. She arrives to the field and there’s no Boaz…but He’s on the way! She doesn’t see it yet, but God is bringing help. She could have been tempted to say, what bad luck the very first field I come to and the owner isn’t even here…maybe I’ll go to another field.
Are we all not tempted from time to time to wonder if we have missed an opportunity? If we have foiled God’s timeline? What if I was just two minutes too late for the one big thing that would change my life because I hit snooze one too many times? Take courage…you’re not powerful enough to overthrow God’s plan. His promises will come to you through His providential means.
You may look at your present and wonder where’s my help? I’m in the field, but there’s no Boaz to help me. Wait on the Lord…trust His timing.
But I must give you another warning this morning. There’s a danger when reading narratives that we create theology from the story. But these stories are not meant to teach theology, they are meant to show us how theology works in real life. That’s why when you read any Old Testament narrative without reading Leviticus or Deuteronomy…watch out, because you’re likely to come away with wrong ideas. Narratives take the truth of God taught in the Law, prophets, and Epistles, set it before us and say, look, it’s true and it’s beautiful! Believe.
For example: We read Daniel in the lion’s den and we think, “if I stand up for God He will always protect me from death.” But that’s not a truth taught in the law, prophets, or epistles. In fact, there are other narratives that “teach” the opposite. It’s funny, no one reads the story of John the Baptist and thinks, “If I stand up for God, He will make sure I die a martyr.”
Let’s be careful when we come to narratives.
So the question becomes, is God really in control of time? Does he promise to step into the timeline of our lives and work like he has for Ruth and Naomi? Let’s see:
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
1 Timothy 1:17
To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
2 Timothy 1:9
God…saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.
What do we learn about God from these three verses?
God created time (Col. 1:16)
He is the ruler of time itself (1 Tim. 1:17)
He planned out his purposes for our lives before even time began (2 Tim. 1:9).
so yes, God is providential over your days, hours, minutes, and even seconds.
Now here’s the really important thing to remember. Ruth and Boaz weren’t setting out to discover the right time. “What day should I arrive in Bethlehem? What hour should I arrive at the field.” They were just living life, trusting in God, asking for favor, and leaving the timing up to God.
So many of us want to know God’s timeline, and for most of the things in our lives, God is not going to share that with you (in fact, this is exactly what Jesus said in Acts 1).
We must all learn to declare with the psalmist:
Psalm 31:15 My times are in your hand.
God is providential over human decisions and actions. 2:1, 3, 19-20
1Now Naomi had a relative of her husband’s, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz.
3 So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech.
So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, “The man’s name with whom I worked today is Boaz.” 20 And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.”
Ruth set out to find favor and God’s providential favor is all over this story.
Even our seemingly random, unguided decisions are used by God to bring about His purposes.
Farming took place outside the city where a large filed was subdivided among the landowners. Imagine Ruth going to the field, looking out, wondering where to go. It’s an important question. Which field owner will accept her? Which field owner will show kindness to her? She has no idea!
But Ruth has taken refuge under the wings of God and Ruth has left her home trusting that God would bring her to a place where she would receive favor. So she chooses a field and the way the text writes it, it seems to indicate that she didn’t hear from God or have this intuition, or feel the Spirit guiding her to this particular field.
No, she just chose a field and, “It just so happened,” that she came to Boaz’s field. This is the narrator’s way of saying this is God at work, not Ruth. It wasn’t planned (on her part). She just happened to come to this field. But it was divine, it was the Spirit leading and answering her prayer without her even knowing it.
And so it is with our lives. Most of our moments aren’t these special encounters where God gives us clarity. No, we just live life and make the best choices we know to make and in the midst of it all God is behind the scenes guiding and directing us!
Take great comfort in that today. When you don’t know what decision to make, take comfort in the fact that you serve a providential God who works with your decisions even when you are unaware.
Ruth has found herself living out Prov. 16:9 – The heart of man plans his way (I’ll go to that field), but the Lord establishes his steps.
And let me just say something right here, since we’re talking about God’s providence over people, decisions, and actions.
BICF is getting close to renewing our contract at this theatre. This takes place every year. But we never want to take anything for granted. We have a good relationship with the government, with the Religious Affairs Bureau, and with this theater. And it’s our plan to stay here. So would you pray with us that as we begin talks with the theatre God’s favor would go before us.
There have been some rumors going around that we are getting kicked out of this location. They’re just rumors. The fact is, our license has been renewed and God has given us favor with the government.
But it’s arrogance to say either way what the future holds.
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
Pray with us that God’s providential work is upon every decision and every action involved in renewing the contract for 21st Century Hotel.
But there’s more than just Ruth’s decision at play here. God is using Boaz as well. He has given him not only the means to bless Ruth, but more importantly, the desire to bless Ruth and He does it through a most unusual way:
Of ALL the people in Bethlehem, Boaz has the history that would draw him to a foreigner.
It’s so important that we be people of the Word taking in scripture as a dry sponge soaks up water.
If we don’t step outside of this chapter to get a wholistic view of God’s redemptive plan we miss the great working of God.
and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth.
It’s here, in the section that most skip over, that we find how much God planned in order to bring favor to Ruth and Naomi.
Rahab, the foreigner
Rahab, the cursed person who lived in a cursed land.
BUT Rahab, who had faith and took refuge under the wings of God.
Rahab the Jerichoite who became part of the family of God!
Rahab, the MOTHER of Boaz.
Why was Boaz drawn to a foreigner in his field begging for help? Boaz is drawn to Ruth because his mother was once a foreigner begging for help. Boaz was able to look past her ethnicity when I’m sure many in the city weren’t, because Boaz was raised by an outsider.
What we find in Boaz is that even before he was born God was preparing Him for this moment!
God does the same for you…bringing people into your life who have the means and the desire to show his providential favor to you. Trust Him in every decision and circumstance.
God is providential through His Word. V. 2
2 And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.”
I want us to look at one more tiny detail that is really important to notice.
Why was Ruth able to go into the field to glean for FREE?
Certainly, this wasn’t the case in Moab or any other land in the ancient near east.
Ruth is able to do this because she had found herself in Bethlehem, in the promised land, among the covenant people of God, who were living under God’s law. They practice gleaning because God’s law commanded them to. The providence of God in Ruth’s life was fulfilled through God’s law.
Again, you don’t really understand the Old Testament stories without first understanding Deuteronomy and Leviticus:
9 “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. 10 And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.
Why should we do this? Because I am Yahweh…it’s my character to care for the poor and the foreigner.
Okay, I get that but what does that have to do with me? You feed the poor, let me just keep everything I’ve worked for.
You’re to do this:
Because you are my people (I am the LORD YOUR GOD). As my people you take on my character.
My sons have taken on Johnson characteristics, and I don’t just mean physical features.
There will be all kinds of weird things they have picked up from me and Jenni that they will have to explain to their future spouse.
Why do you like the New York Yankees? Because I’m a Johnson.
Why do you eat Beijing Duck on Christmas? Because I’m a Johnson.
Why do you constantly talk about the worldview of EVERY movie you watch? Because I’m a Johnson.
The people of God take on the character of God and the character of God is revealed in the Word of God.
Without knowing Leviticus, we just think that Boaz is a nice guy. But through Leviticus we find that God is the one from which this idea comes.
God doesn’t just use time and people to produce his providence, he uses His Word! You want the favor of God to rest upon you be a person of the word among a people of the word basking in Jesus, who is the Word.
Boaz is able to say,
9 Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.
Because he learned the heart of God in the law of God.
Lev. 19:34 – You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself.
Look at a heart that has been transformed by the Law of God that becomes the means by which Ruth receives God’s favor:
Boaz doesn’t just allow Ruth to pick up the leftovers. He commands his workers to pull out extra and leave it behind for her to pick up. He gives her permission to drink his water. He invites her to the table for a meal…but more than just a meal.
Once Ruth returns to Bethlehem the narrator almost exclusively refers to Ruth as the Moabite. She’s an outsider and everyone knows it…Ruth certainly knows it. But the very first encounter Boaz has with Ruth,
“the Moabite” has drops from her name.
8 – Then Boaz said to Ruth. Boaz invites Ruth into the community. Ruth, the Bethlehemite dips her bread in the wine with everyone else. And she eats from the same plate as the other reapers. It’s finally happening, your people shall be my people…and this is due to the actions of Boaz, which is due to the heart of Boaz, which is due to the Word of God.
This is what favor looks like.
Favor goes beyond what we could ever hope for. She’s hoping for some grain to glean but she receives much more. Favor says, stay in my field, under my protection, with my provision, and become a part of my people.
God’s Word is a providential Word, working in our hearts to transform us into His image.
So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Don’t be surprised when God’s providence works on your behalf. Ruth prayed for it, she sought it, and she received it.
What we find in Ruth today is that God sends people to just the right place at just the right time and grants favor to His people through His commandments.
“It just so happens” that today we have a group of people that on July 23 will travelling to place: Russia to spread God’s favor. I’m going to invite them on stage right now so that we can pray for them to be guided by God’s providential hand. May His word be used providentially, May their decisions and actions on this trip be used providentially, and may their calendar they have planned out, the details of every day, every hour, every minute be used providentially to bring favor to the people of Russia.
 No Moabite may enter the assembly of the Lord. Even to the tenth generation, Deut 23:3
 The same command is issued in Deut 24:17-22