Faithlife
Faithlife

Ruth -Br Road 5th March 2006 pm LS

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Ruth – Love that takes a risk

1

    16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.”

 

2

 11 Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. 12 May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”

 

3

7 When Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he went over to lie down at the far end of the grain pile. Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down. 8 In the middle of the night something startled the man, and he turned and discovered a woman lying at his feet.

 

4

13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. Then he went to her, and the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. 14 The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! 15 He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”

Sometimes the Bible demands that we step back into history – back into a culture that seems most remote form our modern lives in order that we may learn a profound truth about the way that God chooses to transform our lives.  The Book of Ruth is just such a narrative.

In modern terms this story is about asylum seekers and outsiders – it is about a stranger being incorporated in the rich tapestry of God’s great plan. It is also a story with quaint customs and a sense or other-worldliness. Welcome to the world of Ruth.

It is of course a love story – but whose love is the subject?  It is a story of country ways at a time when society was corrupt and there was no clear leadership.  It is a story of a stranger welcomed in. It is a story to warm the heart.

But it is also a significant document – not just because of the quaint mannerisms of the time – but because it is one of the few Bible books devoted to marriage and its significance.   Through it runs a central theme – that becoming a follower of God means becoming a member of a family – a family famous for its hospitality its caring ways and its transforming culture.  It is a picture of the Church.

It is also a picture of religious conversion and in its four chapters it charts the progress of the believer from the first turning of the ways to the eternal purposes of God.  You can study it from the point of view of each of its three central characters

RUTH takes a risk.  She decides to leave her own people and to live with the people of God, and from that simple decision there flows a sequence of events that culminates in her becoming one of the great people of God’s plan – an ancestor of David and of Our Lord Himself.

I want to encourage you to take a risk too.   But do so in full knowledge that it might work out very differently if God were not in it.

There are Four Chapters and four acts – four pivotal stanzas:

1 16,17                    A turning point                        your God my God

2 11,12                    A recognition                   under His wings

3 7,8                                A risk                               Marry me!

And

4 13-15                    A reward                          He will renew your life

And overarching all of this is the purpose of God – directing His people and directing His love towards those who begin as outsiders but become family members.

1.  A turning point               Chap 1 vv16,17

 

16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.”

Because these words are so famous – and so beautiful – we may miss the true significance of what Ruth is saying.   Orpah has taken the logical route and is returning home to her people in Moab – Ruth chooses a DIFFERENT PATH.

As a result she is at a similar position to all who like her have been on a road in life and have chosen a particular route. 

I believe that this book shows us how God is at work behind the scenes – and that ultimately it is God who chooses Ruth – but the language of the people in this book presents the other aspect of this work of divine Grace.  Ruth chooses.

In so doing she takes a risk.  There are no guarantees.  She could return home but she chooses to go with Naomi

“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.”

But this is an informed choice – a choice informed by the living testimony of Naomi who has learned in the hard workshop of bitter experience the solid virtues of belonging to God’s people and of a faith that transforms.

Where else did Ruth get the language of her decision if not from Naomi and her son?

Why does she choose to go with Naomi?  Because she has learned something of the faith that underpins Naomi’s life.

She uses a solemn Hebrew vow to reinforce her determination that THINGS WILL BE DIFFERENT.

I have no doubt that I speak today to those who like Ruth have made such a decision.  They are under no illusions that life will be all roses – on the contrary they know first hand some of them what MARA means = bitterness, but they GO GOD’S WAY.

That is how the life of faith begins – with a TURNING POINT and with a hope that has nothing else to cling to but the God who loves.

And so, one April evening Ruth and Naomi come to Bethlehem – and the significance of the place is not lost on any of us. We sense even in the beginnings of this sad story another story that has endless significance.

2.  A recognition     Chap 2 vv 11, 12

11 Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. 12 May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”

I love the way the Bible puts it:

As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech.

It is not a coincidence – but it looks like one!  And who is this that enters the field with language that makes him not only a farmer but a faithful believer?  Boaz.

And, when the enquiries have been made and the polite conversation engaged in, Ruth is astonished by his generosity and his hospitality.  Why has such a foreigner been so well received?

Boaz explains, and as he does so in vv 11 and 12 we realise that there are TWO KINDS OF RECOGNITION at work here.

1.                The recognition of a chosen direction

“I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. 

2.                The recognition of something much deeper – a spiritual reality

12 May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”

At this stage in the story Boaz represents for us the true heart of a believing community.  A man who greets his servants in the name of the Lord, a man who recognises the need of the widow and the homeless, a man who affirms in Ruth the true spiritual nature of her new direction.

I think there are lessons here for the Church.  

Is it a place marked by the wonder of worship?

"The LORD be with you!"

"The LORD bless you!" they called back.

Is it a place where the outsider is welcome?

Where those who have turned to God find a home amongst His people?

Where those who understand are able to recognise the SPIRITUAL realities that underpin seemingly everyday decisions?

Of course as we read the narrative we can sense that, despite the age difference something is being worked out between them – this is at one level at least the Bible’s real romance story > but do not lose sight of the real issues that go beyond the quaint customs of a bygone age.   This is GOD AT WORK in barley harvest!

3.  A Risk         Chap 3 vv 7,8

7 When Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he went over to lie down at the far end of the grain pile. Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down. 8 In the middle of the night something startled the man, and he turned and discovered a woman lying at his feet.

Of course there is someone else at work in the story: Naomi.  She recognises the significance too – and she either instructs her daughter in law in the manners of the Hebrews then – or else Ruth has a similar custom from Moab – she prepares the way for Ruth to take a truly momentous action – PROPOSE TO BOAZ.

You see there is more to belonging to the family of God than a change of direction, more even than being recognised as a fellow believer – there is the CHALLENGE OF TAKING A RISK ON THE FAITHFULNESS OF GOD,   taking a risk on love – and that two kinds of love human and divine.

So Naomi explains the traditions to her – the rest is up to Ruth herself, and it is a risky strategy.

Whatever the customs of a society the moral standards are significant and the narrative has shown us already the moral calibre of all three main characters.  But the real test is one of considered risk.

I would like to suggest to you that love always takes risks – and that part of the necessary framework of a life of faith is a willingness to subject that faith to everyday and once in a lifetime risks.

Effectively in the quaint manners of the time – Ruth proposes to Boaz. He is a kinsman-redeemer – he is uniquely placed to respond to her request and to act properly and effectively.

We detect that, against the background of such strange customs, there is little real danger facing Ruth – other than the exquisite danger that he may reject her.

Too often we live our spiritual lives at a level of everyday decisions made without regard to the principles by which we live.   We decide what we will do often with scant regard to our faith.

God invites us to hazard our abilities, our talents, our opportunities for the greater gain of His kingdom.

4.  Reward           Chap 4 13-15

13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. Then he went to her, and the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. 14 The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! 15 He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”

It is not enough to recognise the happy ending of a particular story – and that is certainly true here – there is a DEEPER SIGNIFICANCE to the thought expressed in those earlier words:

May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.

Not only the immediate situation – but the glorious part in the great PLAN OF GOD for His people then and His Church now.

This story ends with a genealogy – and it is the most telling part of the whole book for it shows that at a time when morals were crumbling elsewhere – there were faithful people whose lives were woven into the very ancestry of David and of Christ.

God has great plans for you and me – plans that extend beyond the familiar territory of our own home and age – and that are realised in Christ and in Christ alone.

Recognise His love – take a risk for the Lord Himself.

In what ways should we take such a risk?

    By being bolder in seizing the opportunities for evangelism

    By greater commitment to service of the Christian community

    By examining the relationships in our lives to see where God may be at work

    By trusting Him in the face of difficulty

A turning point                        your God my God

A recognition                   under His wings

A risk                               Marry me!

And

A reward                          He will renew your life

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