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Faithlife

Ruth: Hope in Petition

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Series Review

Review of the Ruth story: 1) famine, death, bitterness, return 2) gleaning in the fields, working hard, noticed by Boaz, who is our guardian redeemer
When I was reading over this story and trying to put together a sermon, I remembered a story I read about ten years ago. The title of the book was Your God is Too Safe: Rediscovering the Wonder of a God You Can't Control. The book is about how small our visions can be, the low expectations we have of God, the feelings that God is absent or God is not working in our lives. The expectation that if God is not making us feel secure and safe, then we really aren’t worshipping the God of Scripture.
Feb 19, 2009
The author tells a story of a woman who experienced tragedy and had lost hope: Her story begins with a hopeful future. Her husband was an architect, and they would sit down in the evenings and plan out their dream home together. This would be a home where they could raise their children together and grow old together. One day her husband abruptly announced that he was in love with another woman, and wanted a divorce. Her husband goes on to marry this other woman.
The reason this 3rd chapter of Ruth reminded me of this angry, devastated woman was not just that she had lost her husband. It was also because of the real estate: what was supposed to be her home. She and her kids never moved away, and her commute to work would take her by the house where ex husband and his new wife lived. Built exactly like the one she had envisioned.
Chapter story is about Naomi, Ruth and Boaz, but behind these actors is something that is also importance: real estate. Naomi had lost her husband and her children when she lived in Moab, but she also lost their land. When Naomi and her husband left Israel because of the famine, they left behind land. Their home.
When Naomi and her husband left Israel because of the famine, they left behind land. Their home. And since Naomi’s husband had died, and since she was a woman, Naomi couldn’t reclaim that land. She couldn’t redeem that land.
So I imagine Naomi, having a visible reminder of her tragedy: land that was once her now belonging to someone else. And since Naomi’s husband had died, and since she was a woman, Naomi couldn’t reclaim that land. She couldn’t redeem that land. She needed a redeemer.
Do you remember when I preached about redemption last November? It means to buy back something that was lost. It could mean personal freedom. It could mean land. This story, this sermon, is about how Naomi is intentional in making this happen. The sermon is about how we can discover hope in asking God. We can find hope in petition.
introduction to series: hopelessness…woman, unfaithful husband, house
Naomi is sorta like this woman - her husband was not unfaithful but he died

Sermon Introduction

I wonder how many of us in this worship space need something. And by need I mean need, not want. Sometimes we can’t tell the difference. Sometimes what we want is something that God does not want for us. But Jesus makes it clear that we need to ask God to supply our needs:
Matthew 7:7 NIV
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
He makes it sound so simple. Ask and you get. Knock and the door opens. God is a divine waiter and a restaurant waiting for us to place an order. God is a butler who opens the door. James in his letter seems to reinforce this idea. You don’t have it? It’s because you didn’t ask.
Matthew 17:20 NIV
He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
James 4:2 NIV
You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.
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: You do not have because you do not ask God.
things starting to get better
Both of these Scriptures are true: God knows what we need and is waiting for us to ask. God wants to make himself known to us and he’s waiting at the door. But people get disillusioned when God leaves us waiting for our order to arrive or leaves us standing by the door waiting for someone to let us in.
This sermon is about asking. It’s about petition. All of the major players in the story: Naomi, Ruth and Boaz tell us something about how we need to ask God, and how through our asking we can find hope, even before our prayers of petition are answered.
We get disillusioned when God doesn’t ask swiftly, or give us what we know we need.
I want to make a distinction between 2 types of asking. I see these in Scripture, and I see these in my life as a follower of Jesus Christ. There is...
This series is about hope: the hope that God gives us. We see this hope played out in the story of Ruth, someone whom by Hollywood’s standards would be a not so compelling character. She is a foreigner. She is a widow. She is poor. The Bible is a book of its times, so her being a woman makes her even less significant in the ancient world. And she clings to her mother in law and goes to a foreign land with her. And yet in this quiet, maybe even boring to some people, God shows his quiet, slow, providential, and transforming work.
And yet in this quiet, maybe even boring to some people, God shows his quiet, slow, providential, and transforming work.
story, this sermon is

Passive Asking v. Active Asking

Passive Asking means avoiding evil and waiting for God to answer. Sometimes we use the phrase “Let go and let God.” Sometimes we can get to that point. Where we’ve done all we can at our end. We’ve used all of our human efforts and human resources, and there’s nothing else we can do, so we just sit back, be still and know there is God.
But that should not be our default. In fact, sometimes it can be just plain wrong. Imagine my sitting in my lazy boy chair, feet propped up and asking my wife, “can you give me a refill?” “Well....I could...”
Sometimes we ask God for more important things: we agonize over what theologians call “the problem of evil.” Why, God, do you allow suffering? Why, God, do you allow people to live in starvation? Why, God, do allow homelessness? Why, God, do you allow so much hatred in the world? Why, God, do you let me hurt? I wonder sometimes if God is asking us the same thing?
Remember last week I said that just because the biblical authors didn’t explicitly write, “God did this,” doesn’t mean God was silent and inactive. The same is true of prayer. Just because we don’t read about someone kneeling and saying a prayer doesn’t mean they weren’t praying and crying out to God for their needs.
Active Asking is actively seeking to obey God. Praying about what God wants us to do. Praying to God for what we need. But just because ask God for something, doesn’t mean we just sit and do nothing. Active asking is praying, while actively seeking God’s solution. That’s what Naomi, Ruth and Boaz did: they all understood their needs. They understood that God would provide for their needs. But they didn’t just sit back and see what God was going to do: they acted. They were actively asking. First, let’s look at...
I was listening to a preacher tell the
maybe god will ask us the same thing
Active Asking = actively seeking to obey God
j

Naomi: Active hope means avoiding a maintenance mentality.

Ruth 3:1 NIV
One day Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi said to her, “My daughter, I must find a home for you, where you will be well provided for.
Naomi could have easily been a depressed victim. People who feel like victims don't make plans. People who are paralyzed by grief usually have no ability or intention to find solutions, or to practice an active hope. Naomi does not remain in that state of paralysis (she had reason to), she acts. She practices active asking. She is practicing an active hope. David, the psalmist, had this to say about being paralyzed by grief:
Psalm 42:5 NIV
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
He expresses despair, but also expresses hope.
Lack of hope leads to a maintenance mentality. I’ve seen this in churches in individuals and in churches. (I’ve heard it called a “circle the wagons” approach: preserve their way of life in a changing world; we may not see our church at such a place now, but every church is susceptible to it). I’ve also heard the words “coasting Christian” to describe Christians who just maintain their status quo.
Naomi doesn’t do that. In fact, she doesn’t even focus on her own pain: she is focused on helping Ruth.
Naomi: Lack of hope leads to a maintenance mentality. People, churches, denial
Active hope is the difference between opening a door because a wheelchair bound person is behind you, and organizing an effort to help the wheelchair community.
Active hope is the difference between opening a door because a wheelchair bound person is behind you, and organizing an effort to help the wheelchair community.

Ruth: Active hope is not safe, but finds its rest in God.

Ruth, following Naomi’s instructions, goes to the threshing floor in the middle of the night where Boaz is sleeping, and lies down at his feet. We have to consider the culture of the day to see what’s going on here. What we have here is a marriage proposal.
How many of you got down on one knee to make your marriage proposal? How many of you called the future in laws before making this proposal? Those are rituals in our culture. Ruth chapter 3 is describing another.
We might think this was a common custom of that day, but look at how Boaz responds. He’s astonished! Imagine waking up to that! Apparently he keeps his composure, and sorts out the situation.
Ruth 3:9 NIV
“Who are you?” he asked. “I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family.”
We might think this was a common custom of that day, but look at how Boaz responds. He’s astonished! Imagine waking up to that! Apparently he keeps his composure, and sorts out the situation.
Ruth 3:9 NIV
“Who are you?” he asked. “I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family.”
We might think this was a common custom of that day, but look at how Boaz responds. He’s astonished! Imagine waking up to that! Apparently he keeps his composure, and sorts out the situation.
Ruth 3:9 NIV
“Who are you?” he asked. “I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family.”
Some commentators say the Bible is describing a sexual scenario, but that’s not where the conversation leads. Ruth wanted a commitment to marriage, but she wanted much more than that. In the ancient world, such a commitment was symbolized by covering someone with the corner of one’s robe, roughly equivalent to the giving of an engagement ring in our culture.
But what did that symbolism mean?
Ruth wanted to make her intentions clear right from the outset. Her goal was a commitment to marriage, not a single night of passion. In the ancient world, such a commitment was symbolized by the gesture of covering someone with the corner of one’s robe, roughly equivalent to the giving of an engagement ring in our culture
Ruth wanted Boaz to marry her and thus to provide protection for her and Naomi: she was looking for a redeemer. You have to think back to November when I preached about redemption. Remember that if you were in need of redemption, you were in very a bad situation. The word redeem means “to buy back.” If you were poor and out of desperation sold your property to keep from starving - or even worse sold yourself - a relative could buy back what you had lost, or provide redemption.
Esther and Ruth A Dangerous Encounter

Ruth wanted to make her intentions clear right from the outset. Her goal was a commitment to marriage, not a single night of passion. In the ancient world, such a commitment was symbolized by the gesture of covering someone with the corner of one’s robe, roughly equivalent to the giving of an engagement ring in our culture

Ruth is asking for redemption. She is asking for Boaz, through marriage, to buy back the property and provide her and Naomi with protection -- widows were economically vulnerable. A relative of the dead husband could redeem her and the land.
Ruth is asking for protection -- widows were economically vulnerable, but there were laws to protect them. A relative of the dead husband could redeem the widow.
Esther and Ruth A Dangerous Encounter

Ruth wanted Boaz to marry her and thus to provide a refuge for her and Naomi, just as a kinsman redeemer would. As we noted in chapter 12, a kinsman redeemer was a person who had an obligation to buy his relatives back if they sold themselves into slavery to pay off their debts. Under certain circumstances, the kinsman redeemer would also be obligated to marry his brother’s widow in order to raise up a family for the dead man, a family that would inherit his property. Clearly, there was no legal obligation on Boaz to act in this way.

Some commentators say the Bible is describing a sexual scenario, and the potential is certainly there. But that’s not where the conversation leads. Ruth is asking for protection -- widows were economically vulnerable, but there were laws to protect them. A relative of the dead husband could redeem the widow.
Active hope is risky.
But she is also asking God for protection. Those words “corner of your garment” is used in chapter 2:12. Those words can also be a single word: wings.
Ruth is asking for protection -- widows were economically vulnerable, but there were laws to protect them. A relative of the dead husband could redeem the widow.
Ruth 2:12 NIV
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.”
Ruth is not just seeking refuge from Boaz, but she is seeking it from God.
Active hope is risky.
Ruth is taking a huge risk here. Coming at night, risking rejection, risking the wrong interpretation. Active hope is not safe.
There is more:
Naomi: People who feel like victims don't make plans. People who remain in a state of self-pity have no ability or intention to help the world. Naomi does not remain in a state of self-pity (she had reason to), she acts. She practices intentional righteousness.

Boaz: Active hope doesn’t break the rules, even for a compassionate cause.

Boaz: Active hope doesn’t break the rules, even for a compassionate cause.

Ruth 3:13 NIV
Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to do his duty as your guardian-redeemer, good; let him redeem you. But if he is not willing, as surely as the Lord lives I will do it. Lie here until morning.”
Many things can be said about Boaz. He doesn’t take advantage of a vulnerable widow. He protects her reputation. He sends her home with more food. But I want to point out something even more important here:
He sees the need: Ruth needs a redeemer. He is not obligated to do this, but he wants to do it. He also stands to get some land out of the marriage. But he also knows that legally he is not the next in line to do this. There is a closer relative to do this.
There will be opportunities for us to be the hands and feet of Christ.
Doing wrong for a good cause. (stealing cd’s and books, God told me to take these for my low income congregation; gambling, feeling guilty, tithe my winnings?).

Closing

We will always have needs. The world will always have needs. Will we pray and then wait for God to take care of it, or will we be like Naomi and Ruth and intentionally, strategically, faithfully, look for the solution, no matter how risky that solution might be?
God will provide us with the solution to our needs. God will provide and the needs of others. Will we resist the temptation to take shortcuts, to help people by violating morals?
STAY AFTER AND HELP SET UP FOR SAFE NIGHTS
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