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A Providential Encounter

August 7, 2022

Teacher: Chip Henderson
Scripture: Ruth 2:1–23

A Providential Encounter

Ruth 2 – God's Unexpected Kindness (Series on Ruth) – August 7, 2022

Introduction

Reading of Ruth 2:1–7

During WW II in the Pacific Theatre of the War, much of the fighting involved battles on islands taking back the captured territory from Japanese forces. “Islands with names like Tarawa, Saipan, Guam, Iwo Jima and Okinawa became common place in news articles on the war. Between these battles and training for a new invasion, US troops had down time call “liberty” where they could rest and relax, often within the local community where they were stationed. As human nature would have it, near the bases were places where men could pursue ungodly means of entertainment with the free flow of alcohol and with women at places mistakenly called “ Comfort Houses.” They were sinful places and many young American solders were tempted by the influence that they had on the troops.

One young American Marine Lieutenant was greatly upset when he saw his fellow soldiers, spared from injury or death in battle, heading to these places at night. So born of the biblical upbringing his Methodist minister father and Godly mother had instilled in him and the background as a drill Sergeant, this Lieutenant, went about determined for the souls of his men as well as the young girls often forced into this line of work.

At night when his men headed to the comfort houses, so did this Marine, attempting to convince them to pursue better uses of their liberty and to consider their relationship with their creator God. But beyond his own fellow solders, this Lieutenant became increasing vocal with the young women and their employers as well - encouraging them to stop their duties there and to find a different way of life.

This nightly ritual finally came to a head when the Marine Lieutenant was approached by the military police from base who had discovered that the local owners of these establishments had threatened harm to this soldier for the loss of business and for the women who were seeing their trade impacted. So he was forced to stop his nightly travels to town but didn’t stop exhorting men to properly view women in God’s eyes and to see the wonderful creation of woman respected and treated with dignity and honor. And throughout the 50-plus years that I knew this man as my father Lt Col. Bill Henderson, I never knew him to be anything but a Godly man to the women he encountered in every facet of his life. Especially my mother and my sister. My father, though not a perfect man, showed many of the qualities that we will be discussing in Ruth Chapter 2 today—as he was generous to a fault to those in need, kind and tenderhearted to those in difficulty and aware of God’s providence in his life.

Recap of Chapter 1

Last week Daniel introduced us to the book of Ruth, a four-chapter narrative set during Israel’s history when Judges ruled the land and everyone did what was right in their own eyes. We’re introduced to a Jewish family, Elimelech the father, Naomi, his wife, and sons Mahlon and Chilion. It begins as a drama as the father foolishly decides to sojourn in the land of Moab while Israel is under a drought—as a result of God’s judgement—but the story comes close to becoming a catastrophe with the deaths of Elimelech, the marriage of his 2 sons to Moabite women, and then the deaths of both sons. So 10 years after abandoning the promised land, only Naomi is left with her two Moabite daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, in desperate circumstances.

The story turns when Naomi, hears news that God had visited his people and the famine is over in Israel. Naomi determines to return to her homeland and charges the two daughter in laws to return to their mothers’ houses, where she prays they will find another husband. Orpah heeds Naomi’s words, but Ruth is determined to accompany Naomi and to serve the God: Yahweh. She exclaims  in Ruth 1:16, “Do not urge me to leave you or return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people will be my people, and your God my God”.

Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem, where the return is bittersweet for Naomi as she sees that the Lord has dealt bitterly with her and brought calamity and that her name is no longer Naomi (which means “pleasant”), but is now Mara (which means “bitter”). She comments that she went away full but the Lord has returned her empty. She’s encountering a failure of future grace. But they have just returned in time for the barley harvest which appears to be plentiful and abundant but as Chapter 2 begins this unlikely couple is facing the following problems.

  1. Food and provisions
  2. No heir for family of Elimelech to continue his name and claim rights to land
  3. No prospects for Ruth - now an alien sojourner herself in a foreign land.

Today we will be introduced to our final character within the book of Ruth in Chapter 2, a man described as a “worthy” man who ironically was the son of a woman that workedthe “comfort houses” of Jericho. We’ll continue the story of the Moabite widow Ruth and Naomi her mother in law as they return to Bethlehem from the sojourn in Moab. We will see through out the chapter as well as the whole book of Ruth, the quiet but ever moving providence of God as His purposes and plans are worked out amongst the characters in this beautiful narrative and solutions begin to emerge for the problems facing the two widowed women. These interactions and their stories will lead to our 3 points this morning.

  1. Gleaning in the life of the believer vs. 2-7
  2. Hesed in the life of the believer vs. 8 - 17
  3. Providence in the life of the believer vs. 17- 23

Prayer

Ruth 2:1, "Now Naomi had ta relative of her husband’s, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz."

The first lines of Chapter 2 interrupt the flow of this narrative by introducing the final character in the book of Ruth, Boaz; a man described as a worthy man - one who will ultimately be used by God to address the 3 overshadowing problems that were facing Naomi and Ruth.

Boaz is introduced as a relative of Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, of the same tribe Judah and same clan, so they are close relatives. Boaz is described as a worthy man which would have meant that he had not only material substance in land and wealth but that he was a social leader of Bethlehem and one respected in the community anda Godly man—unlike his relative Elimelech who had chosen an ungodly escape to Moab during the drought. Boaz means, “In the strength of Yahweh,” and one of the pillars in Solomon’s temple, Boaz’s great great grandson’stemple in Jerusalem is named Boaz in honor of this worthy man (1 Kings 7:21).

Let’s begin with our first point…

1. Gleaning in the Life of a Believer (vv. 2-7)

Ruth 2:2-7:

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.” 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.”

Ruth in verse 2 takes the initiative to solve the ongoing question of food by asking Naomi permission to go glean in the fields  Gleaning was God’s provision for the disadvantaged and poor to provide food for them. This is first noted in Leviticus 19:9—10 (Leviticus 23:22):

“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." (Leviticus 19:9–10)

For this practice of God’s provision to be successful you needed two parties working in concert. One such as Ruth who showed great initiative and courage as she could not be assured of her safety as a single Moabite woman in a foreign land. This risk of physical harm is addressed by both Boaz, the land owner and her mother in law Naomi later in this chapter. Ruth also shows a humble attitude in asking permission to glean in the field and not presuming this would be allowed in the field she chose. But along with one willing to go and glean after the harvesters, you equally needed another party—the landowner—such as Boaz to offer up his field to the poor. The provision of God would only work if a landowner was willing and Boaz shows his obedience and faithfulness to God’s word by opening up his fields and welcoming the gleaners.

We also see his Godly character in how he addressed the reapers when he shows up in the field, “ The Lord be with you! “ And they answered,“ The Lord bless you. “ This shows a godly relationship between his workers and the landowner.

The idea of gleaning for food runs throughout the chapter showing up in some form over 11 times and is mentioned by all of the characters in various contexts and forms. But how are we to understand the Biblical concept of gleaning today? God’s provision to help the destitute and needy thru gleaning for food in the Old Testament can be equated to the caring for the poor in the New Testament. Jesus said we would always have the poor with us and in Matthew 25:35–40 we get an idea of how we should respond to those in need:

"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’" (Matthew 25:35–40)

Most of us will thankfully never be physically hungry or in such a desperate situation such as  Naomi and Ruth, but with our excess we should be looking for practical ways to be faithful to God’s provision for the poor through our generosity toward those in our community. Within our church we have a number of opportunities to help with Safe Families, the school at Aqua Viva in Guatemala and to partner with local food banks where one of our own Ray Mulligan volunteers in the distribution of food to the needy.

As we consider effective ways to minister to those in need it is good to reflect on how we actually were just as Ruth in another -more important aspect of her life. And that is as a Moabite she was spiritually impoverished and malnourished. And we were all Moabites spiritually- dead in our sin, separated from God with no hope of reconciliation. Ephesians 2:13-16 explains our condition and what Christ has done for us:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. (Ephesians 2:13- 16)

When Ruth proclaimed, “Your people have become my people and your God my God, she’s witnessing to the spiritual transformation that has occurred in her life. The food of the barley fields can only go so far compared compared to the life changing bread of life from God. The greater bread we need is Jesus the Bread of Life. In John chapter 6, Jesus addresses the crowds after he had fed the 5000 and they continued to pursue him—not for the life changing transformation of the new birth and eternal life but for more food. They are stuck on the result of this miracle—food and not on the person Jesus the Son of God. Food is important—yes! Our bodies need it but Jesus points out to the crowds that he is Bread of Life and that we can eat of this bread and be satisfied—forever. Real bread will perish but the greater bread—Jesus—will never perish and leads to eternal life for those that believe in Him. We see this in John 6:33- 35 and John 6:51.

For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (John 6:32- 35)

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:51)

So continue in looking for opportunities to help in practical ways to those in need but also consider their need for the true -Bread of Life, Jesus Christ.

Titus 3: 4-8 sums up what has occurred in our lives through our salvation and how it leads to helping others.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. (Titus 3:4-8)

As we minister to those around us as the Holy Spirit brings opportunity the Bible exhorts us to conduct ourselves with a spirit of Hesed (or lovingkindness), the subject of our second point.

2. Hesed in the Life of the Believer (vv. 8 - 17)

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. 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.” 

14 And at mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. 15 When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. 16 And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.” (Ruth 2:8–17)

Hesed is a Hebrew word used throughout the Old Testament and in Ruth 1:8; 2:20; and 3:10. Our section here is a vivid picture of it in action.

Hesed is a central theological theme in the Old Testament but there is not an exact English word to translate so it’s usually translated with a variety of words such as kindness, faithfulness, goodness, compassionate service, loyalty and steadfast love. The closest word combination to describe Hesed would probably be steadfast loyal love. Hesed describes not just the emotional feelings one might have for someone but the acts of service and care that one walks out with that person. Hesed also runs both vertically from God to man and horizontally from man to man.

In the barley fields outside of Bethlehem we see this Hesed flowing forth from Boaz as encourages a young widow and from Ruth whose working to help her mother in law. This exchange between Boaz and Ruth is probably the first time in many days or even months when Ruth has felt cared for by someone in a true Hesed—following the loss of her husband and her leaving everything she has known: family, friends, and culture in Moab.

In the Old Testament, Hesed is first mentioned in Exodus 34:6–7 when Moses encountered God on Mt Sinai as he brings replacement tablets to the mountaintop to renew the Covenant and the Ten Commandments on the stones. He’s returning to the mountaintop because the first tablets were destroyed as Moses came down the mountain and encountered the people of God worshipping a Golden Calf that Aaron had fashioned. Here is the Lord’s response to Moses in Exodus 34:6–7:

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.”(Exodus 34:6-7)

It’s important to see the phrase “steadfast love” twice in this passage as God is showing his Hesed to a stiff-necked people that have continually sinned again him.

Lovingkindness is found throughout the first 2 chapters in Ruth 1: 8, “May the Lord deal kindly with you. as you have dealt with the dead and with me”; 2:20, “May he be blessed of the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!”

In Boaz’s interaction with Ruth, we hear a kindness and compassion as he calls her His daughter. He gives her gentle and kind instructions, “Do not glean elsewhere, Do not leave this field, Keep close to my young women, Keep your eyes on the field that they are reaping and go after them, My men have been instructed not to touch you, Drink when thirsty from the vessels the young men have drawn water from.” These directives and the tone rendered by Boaz cause Ruth to respond with humility as she falls on her face and asks, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner? Boaz’s answer shows us that not only has he been a giver of Hesed or lovingkindness, but Ruth has also been one to show this character in all she has done for her mother in law Naomi.

The next line spoken by Boaz is one of the most beautiful in this narrative as he prays to the Lord to repay Ruth for all that she has done, a full reward to be given to her, as he describes the place of refuge under the wings of the Lord, the God of Israel that Ruth has been found. What a most touching and intimate picture of Ruth’s positional relationship with God and one that as fellow believers we can also embrace as our loving Savior Jesus Christ welcomes us into his place of safety and refuge when we are called from out of our darkness to under the winds of refuge and protection of the Lord.

Ruth responds to this exchange with another surprised response as she is amazed that she has found favor in his eyes, Boaz has comforted her and spoken kindly—Hesed—to her although she is not one of his servants. Boaz also continues to go beyond what a typical gleaning relationship would be with the landowners and gleaners by inviting Ruth to eat with the workers, telling workers not to reproach her and to pull out some of the harvest already reaped and let her glean from this as well.

The writer of Ruth is shows us many examples of lovingkindness / Hesed as we should be walking in this conduct in our daily interactions with family, friends, coworker and even unbelievers.

In Ephesians 4:32 we see that we are to show this kind of kindness to others—because Christ has shown it to us. Ephesians 4:32 is a life verse for me.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:29-32)

This verse is an example of the Spirit filled life that we are to walk in as believers. The practical outworking of Hesed brings Glory to God.

And as powerful as these acts of kindness are in the life of a believer because it is so contrary to our nature, they point to the greater act of Hesed, the ultimate act of Hesed in the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus fulfilled the promise of a Messiah and the Old Testament Covenants and ushered in a new covenant with the shedding of his blood, his death and resurrection. From the Old Testament Covenants of Noah, Abraham, Moses to David, God has been establishing covenants with his people, and his people continually break those covenants. Hesed in its complete fulfillment is what Christ accomplished on Calvary through God’s steadfast love to restore his people to him and to usher in a New Covenant whereas all of the covenant promises are realized in and through Jesus. “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared he saved us.” Whatever the cost to God himself—even the death of his only-begotten Son, whom God poured out his wrath upon, our sin upon his sinless Son. Our filthy rags for Christ’s righteousness imparted to us as Christ died in our place. And through his death and resurrection we are empowered by the Holy Spirit working in us to live a life of Hesed / lovingkindness to others.

With our spiritually impoverished lives changed by our most loving Saviors death we should stop and consider the providence of God in the life of a believer which is our last point.

3. Recognizing God’s Providence in the Life of a Believer (vv. 17–23)

Ruth 2: 17-23

So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. 18 And she took it up and went into the city. Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also brought out and gave her what food she had left over after being satisfied. 19 And her mother-in-law said to her, “Where did you glean today? And where have you worked? Blessed be the man who took notice of you.” 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.” 21 And Ruth the Moabite said, “Besides, he said to me, ‘You shall keep close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.’” 22 And Naomi said to Ruth, her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, lest in another field you be assaulted.” 23 So she kept close to the young women of Boaz, gleaning until the end of the barley and wheat harvests. And she lived with her mother-in-law. (Ruth 2:17-23)

Now we want to consider God's providence. The Heildelberg Catechism’s asks

Q: What do you understand by the providence of God?
A: The almighty and ever present power of God whereby he still upholds, as it were by his own hand, heaven and earth together with all creatures , and rules in such a way that leaves and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and unfruitful years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, and everything else, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand. God is ever moving in our lives to fulfill them to the purposes and plans he has determined and nothing can separate us from his plan in this life or in the eternal life to come.
Heidelberg Catechism, Question 27

We see direct elements of God’s providence from the very beginning of Ruth as the drought leads to Elimelech leaving Bethlehem and then the Lord visiting Israel and the famine is over. Also in the nature of work as Ruth goes out to glean in the field, then beats out the grain to keep for her and Naomi. The providence of God is silently moving as His hidden hand is involved in many aspects of this narrative. Ruth is not a book full of dramatic miracles and appearances of God. But we do see God visited his people and the famine is over in 1: 6, and then again in 4:13 when the Lord gives conception to Ruth. But God is ever moving in the lives of these characters even those you would never consider to be a part of the linage of King David and ultimately Jesus Christ. And to point to the reality of Gentiles being a part of God’s kingdom. Boaz is the son of Rahab the prostitute of “ comfort houses” who helped the Israelites when they were spying out the promised land in the city of Jericho. And Ruth a Moabite widowed woman who has left everything behind in Moab to follow her mother in law and her God.

Let’s reflect upon the many places we can observe God’s providence in Ruth.

  1. Drought in Israel leads to a famine, the famine ends, and the upcoming harvest is plentiful. But how does Naomi hear this in the fields of Moab?
  2. Ruth’s desire to glean and her choice of the field to glean in is owned by Boaz, a relative of her husband’s family.
  3. Boaz happens upon the field to inspect his harvest at the same time Ruth is gleaning.
  4. Ruth is showed kindness from Boazwho surely understood the difficult circumstance of one’s family. Answered Ruth’s prayer that she would find favor in the field she chose.
  5. Namoi begins to turn from her lack of future faith to see God moving in her dire circumstances.

When Ruth returns to Naomi - there is also a dramatic interaction as Naomi begins to see God’s providence in their lives. The amount of food that Ruth brings home is amazing, about 35 lbs, and they are assured of continued provision as Ruth is told to remain in Boaz’s field through the barley and wheat harvest. Now Naomi starts to see how Boaz could be instrumental in the answers of the final two questions still lingering from chapter one: (1) Who can be an heir for Elimelech’s name and rights to his property?; and (2) Where would a Moabite widow exiled in Israel find a prospective husband? She exclaims that “Blessed is the Man that took notice, and Blessed is the man whose Hesed has not forsaken the living or the dead. Naomi’s faith has been bolstered as she experiences God’s kindness toward her and Ruth. She begins to consider that one of God’s acts of providence in their lives is the Old Testament concept of a Kinsman Redeemer who will be used to accomplish God’s plans for them.

Naomi sees God’s providence in Ruth meeting Boaz and remarks that “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers”.

From this exchange we begin to see Boaz as this family’s possible kinsman redeemer- who was a relative that would deliver his kin from difficult circumstances, redeeming them from danger or financial ruin.

In Israel the kinsman- redeemer had 4 obligations or responsibilities:

  1. When one of his kin was in financial difficulty the kinsman redeemer was to buy him out of the debt that had led to his bondage or indentured slavery.
  2. If a relative had sold off his inheritance or land the kinsman redeemer had an obligation to buy back the land that his relative had sold.
  3. He was to perform the Levirate law of marrying a widow in the family who had not male heirs and produce a descendant for the dead husband. We see this in Deuteronomy 25:5- 10. The custom was that when an Israelite husband died without a male child, the bother or near relative would marry the widow to produce a male child to carry on the dead man's name and to allow his inheritance to go to a male heir.
  4. The kinsman redeemer was to avenge the death of a relative.

Naomi sees that Boaz could be this kinsman-redeemer, and in the next 2 chapters this story will continue to play out with this as the background. As we conclude this final point we should look to the ultimate kinsman-redeemer, A redeemer greater than Boaz, JesusChrist who fulfilled these very duties for us as the Son of God:

  1. Jesus freed us from the bondage of sin and slavey to our carnal nature
  2. Jesus claimed an inheritance for his people
  3. Jesus raised up a seed in his name
  4. Served as the avenger of blood - as we see in the book of Revelation

There is no greater providence in anyone’s life than the purpose and plan that God had for you since before creation to call you out of your sinful life and establish you as one of his own- children of God and heirs of eternal life. And Jesus as our kinsman redeemer fulfills these through his blood and sets us free from sin.

John Flavel has a great quote from The Mystery of Providence -

You may look upon some providences once and again, and see little or nothing in them, but look “seven times,” that is, meditate often upon them, and you will see their increasing glory, like that increasing cloud.
John Flavel, The Mystery of Providence

God’s Providence in reflection from 50 years ago

When I was 14 years old-during a sports physical or some such routine examination at his pediatricians, the doctor told me and my mom, "That murmur in his heart is still there and probably needs further tests.”

For an outwardly healthy and pretty athletic kid used to playing basketball, running track and riding motorcycles, it sounded rather ominous. But as a young believer who was full of the Holy Spirit and faith, I didn’t think much about it.Until a month later after going through a battery of tests and a cardiac catheterization. This is where they run a tube or catheter up a blood vessel to the heart to diagnose heart issues. I was told that I had a hole the size of a nickel in the septal wall of his heart. And surgery would be needed but was scheduled 9 months later at the end of the school year.

Fast forward the 8.5 months, 2 weeks before this rather important surgery. My father calls a family meeting to inform me and my sister (of course my mom already knew) that his job was moving him 4 hours away. AllI could think was my high school was all planned for the next 3 years: Iwas to be on the debate team, the marching band, even the jazz band and hey love of math was to lead to advance classes and ultimately NC State where I had planned on being an architect. But now not only was my High school out but also my classmates that i’d known from the first grade and all my Bible study and prayer group friends would be left behind.

Maybe dad picked just the right time to tell me this news since the most pressing issue in my life was not which songs the band was going to play or what topics the debate team would have but how would my upcoming surgery go. And my newfound faith and assurance that God was in control seemed to encourage me as it seemed kind of exciting to start a new adventure after the surgery. Thankfully the surgery went as expected—no complications and a few months later I stood outside my new school ready to go.

I submitted my transcripts and excitedly communicated all the classes and extracurricular stuff I wanted to participate in. The principal just listened and then explained, “We’re a small private school that doesn’t have a lot of programs or activities for our students. We do have a few sports, but we don’t have a debate team, we don’t have a marching band, jazz band, really no band at all. Plus your math classes are out of sync with our academic schedule so you’re gonna have to take some as independent studies on your own.”

“But I do have something you could consider as I see that your father owns an advertising agency, and this might be just right for you as you recover from your surgery. Our yearbook photographer just graduated and we have no one that knows anything about cameras. Why don’t you give ita try?”

50 years ago this week I picked up my first camera as God opened up a career I had never even considered. In his providence in a young believers life God had plans for me to bring joy and to serve my clients through the gift of photography, a gift that would glorify and honor the God of all creation.

Conclusion

As I wrap up the time in Ruth Chapter 2 consider this John Flavel quote,“The Providence of God is like Hebrew words: it can be read only backwards.” My story is not unique and I would encourage everyone to take some time this week to consider how God has moved in your life. Write a list and return to it often with thanksgiving and with prayer.

Finally in conclusion are there characters in this chapter whose status and situation you can identity with?As I read the questions, reflect on them and ask God if there are areas that you want to see change in. Or maybe discuss them over lunch with someone that knows you well. And if you need prayer to address them, the prayer team will be up front.

Consider Ruth:

  1. Are you courageous to help others in need when the opportunity arises? Or does fear of failure or fear of man inhibit your desire to reach out to help.
  2. Do you have a humble spirit to seek out ways to serve and to listen to directions.
  3. Are you finding the time to find refuge under the wings of God and just rest ?Do you findtime to just sit with God?

Consider Naomi:

  1. Have you been able to allow those to serve you when you have needed help ?
  2. Do you need a Ruth to walk with you during these most difficult times.
  3. Are you struggling to understand God’s providence in your life?

Consider Boaz:

  1. Are you using your talents, money and resources for the benefit of others in your life? Or are you harvesting right up to the edge of the field and leaving little time or means for others.
  2. Are you kind in spirit and eager to exclaim, “The Lord be with you.”
  3. Are you aware of God’s example in Boaz to eliminate sexual harassment? In your workplace, in public, and at home are you a man like Boaz in his care and approach to women.
  4. Are you open to a radical change of direction in your life? Boaz’s world is set to change for the better but in a dramatic way.

However you consider these questions we serve a God whose providence is ever moving to fulfill the purposes and plans that he has for you. Let’s remember that Jesus is our greater Boaz who comes to us and asks that when we are thirsty to come to him and drink: He is the living water that will never run dry and leads to eternal life. Jesus asks us to take the bread and drink the wine that reminds us of his body and blood that was broken for our sins and provides for us a place of refuge where under His wings we can find rest.

Let’s pray.

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We are a church built on the Bible, guided and empowered by the Spirit, striving to make disciples, and pursuing holiness in the context of robust biblical relationships.

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