Sunday 16th August

Service Transcript & Video
Good morning! We are looking at chapter 2 of Ruth this morning. As we read this chapter we will see a situation that just so happened in a certain way and it was just the right person, right thing at the right time. Do you have those moments. Times when you didn’t know what to do, times when you were struggling, and it just so happened that you came across the right person or right thing that you needed. I had one of those moments recently. I was doing a wee course and it was coming up to the final exam and I was really struggling because I had listened to lectures but hadn’t taken notes. I thought that I was going to have to listen to the lectures again before I would sit the exam. And I just didn’t know if I had the time to do that. But it just so happens that I was talking to a friend in Canada who happened to have taken the course 8 years ago and was able to inform me where I could find the lecture notes. That conversation came at just the right time and it helped me massively. Was it a coincidence? Good luck? Was I just fortunate that that conversation came up that day when I hadn’t spoken to my friend for months? Right person. Right place. Right time. All through my life, I can see instances where God has used situations and people to guide and direct – sometimes I didn’t understand it as the time, but as I looked back, I saw how He worked through it and in it. You have your own stories… one door may have closed to something in your life, it felt disastrous, but it resulted in you taking another path that now you know was just the right thing. As we look at this 2nd chapter in Ruth, we see a story unfold which was unplanned, it looks like pure chance or good luck, but through it, we see the providential hand of God at work. Let’s read: Ruth Chapter 2. In chapter 1, we saw how Naomi and her husband and sons had moved to Moab during a famine and had ended up staying there for 10 years. During that time, her sons married Moabite women. Then tragically, Naomi lost both her husband and her sons. She headed back to Bethlehem and discouraged her daughter in laws from coming with her for she said that there were no family prospects for them. Naomi was hurting, she felt bitter at all that had happened. She felt that God had really given her a hard time. Why had all this happened to her? Life was bleak and dark for her. But as this story unfolds, we have a ray of light appearing in the darkness of Naomi’s situation… right away at the beginning of chapter 2, it’s revealed that actually Naomi does have a relative on her husbands side, a man of standing from the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. Isn’t it interesting, Naomi had felt so discouraged that this guy Boaz, this man of standing, hadn’t even crossed her mind as a relative who could come to her aid. She had felt that she had been left with nothing. Sometimes life is like that for us too, isn’t it? There are times when we feel so down and low, our situation has been bleak, its been really tough, you think things couldn’t really get much worse. When you’re in that state of mind, you can feel a bit like Naomi – you can feel bitter, you can feel the Lord has abandoned you and has given you nothing. You can feel that there is nothing that goes right for you. You can’t see any hope in your situation, because you feel everything has gone against you. In the midst of her trials, Naomi couldn’t think of a possible solution, everything was a blur, she thought that there was no hope, that she had no one – and yet here, as this chapter opens, its as though the author is reminding her, “wait a minute Naomi, don’t you remember, you’re not alone, you haven’t lost your family, there is someone out there, there is a relative.” In the bleakest moments, she couldn’t see it, but provision was there all along. It was literally right in front of her as she headed back to Bethlehem. Sometimes, we need to lift our heads and look around – God hasn’t abandoned us, we’re not on our own, there is hope… perhaps in your situation, you need to look up and remember who is there for you. Who has God sent to help or support you? Perhaps, someone has offered you support or aid or help or friendship, but you’ve never taken up their offer, you’ve felt so low that you’ve forgotten they said they’d be there for you. Perhaps because the help isn’t coming in the way that we are used to, or the way that we would like, and so we’ve somehow overlooked it. I encourage you to ask God to bring that person, that group, that help, that hope to your mind once again. Ask Him to open your eyes too see that there is hope. God provided help for Naomi in the form of Boaz. God didn’t rain manna from the sky, he simply provided a person on her path who helped her practically. Life might not be as you’d hoped, as you’d expected it to be, you may have needs that you never imagined you’d have, your heart may be breaking, but know that you are not abandoned. Hang on, there is hope, there is help. And as we look at this chapter, we see that hope beginning to appear. As Ruth shares the roasted grain and shows her all that she has gathered, as she recounts the kindness of this man Boaz, it is then that the penny drops and Naomi begins to remember that indeed, she has a relative, someone who could help them, that this very same man Boaz is someone who could come to their aid. Naomi’s whole perspective has changed. She went from saying in chapter 1:20 “…the Almighty has made my life very bitter… the Lord has brought me back empty. The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” To saying in chapter 2:20 “The Lord bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” Suddenly, there is hope. Naomi sees someone showing kindness and she is reminded once more of the goodness of God toward her. Think about the events that unfolded… Ruth and Naomi arrived back in Bethlehem just in time for the harvest. They have no one in their life providing for them and they need something to live on, something to help them survive. Ruth asks permission from Naomi to go out and glean from the fields. This was a common practice in those days. It was something that God had requested the farmers to do. Leviticus 19:9 “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest….Leave them for the poor and the foreigner.” Farmers were to have a generous heart and the poor had an opportunity to have a sense of purpose and dignity. God loves people and this was a means of providing for the most vulnerable and needy in society. And so, Ruth makes use of this system that was set in place for people in need. Already, we see God providing for her through a system that He had put in place. But her story didn’t end there did it. Verse 3 tells us that she ended up gleaning in a field belonging to a relative of her husbands. Out of all the places that she could have ended up, she ended up in a field belonging to a relative. She had no idea. She just knew that they needed food and off she went. Not only that, but the owner of the field shows up on the very day that she is out gleaning. And as it turns out, he notices her and asks after her. Of all the people who would have been in the field that day, the owner of the field scans his eyes around and she stands out to him. And as it turns out, the supervisor had spoken to her and found out her story of how she ended up there. Right person, right place, right time. Ruth had no idea what was going to unfold that day when she went out and did what she could to survive. This chapter tells us a lot about Ruth – it reminds us that she is an outsider, a foreigner, she is poor, a widow. It also tells us that she was a humble girl, willing to work, willing to take advice and willing to receive help. We know that she had abandoned her old life in Moab – she’d left it behind and chosen to follow the one true God. She may not have known much about God, but she had sought refuge and security in Him, she trusted that she would get all that she needs from him. And God did meet all her needs. God provided for Ruth through Boaz. Boaz was one of the good guys, a man of character who went above and beyond his duty, he provided friendship for Ruth with the other women, he offered her security, protection and food and water to keep her going. This was a guy who Ruth felt safe with. And when a guy like that tells you to stay put, you stay put. You know everything will be alright. She could have entered any other field that day and her circumstances could have looked a whole lot different. But she ended up here, and it ended up being exactly the right place for her to stay. As you read this, what are you thinking… good luck? Good fortune! What a coincidence? But I think the author of this book is telling us that it’s not all by chance, it’s not just good luck or coincidence. I think they want us to see the hand of God is in it all. I love to think that this as a “God instance”. It’s been said that sometimes God works through the visible hand of a miracle, we love when that happens, but oftentimes, he works through the invisible hand of providence. The truth is that we have this gracious, good and sovereign God who is at work through his people all the time. For Ruth, here in this field, I doubt she had a vision, dream or angel directing her to that field, in a sense, it was her innocent decision, but it was a decision that changed the course of her life. God was guiding her, she just may not have known. Boaz happened to be there at that time on that day, asking those questions. He may not have thought he was doing anything out of the ordinary but as we look back on this story, we see how one thing led to another. Amazing. Like Proverbs 16:9, “In their hearts human beings plan their lives. But the Lord decides where their steps will take them.” We may make our own choices and decisions, but God is at work in our lives and as we obey him and be the people he has called us to be, we begin to see how he is at work in our seemingly innocent decisions. In the moment, it can be hard to see, but as we look back, we see him at work. It’s a bit like that picture of a tapestry, on the back, it looks like a pile of threads, knots, mess, but when it is turned over, we see a beautiful picture being created. I believe that our lives are like that – it can look messy, it may be painful, it can seem pointless, we may think that our decisions don’t really matter, but then things start to happen and we see how that conversation, that meeting, that phone-call, that cheque, that donation, made a real difference. It had an impact that you wouldn’t have perceived. Perhaps, as you are going about your everyday ordinary life, you don’t think what you do, where you go, the shops you enter, the people you call, you don’t imagine it makes much difference, well I think that this passage can encourage us and remind us, that it does make a difference, if not in your life, in the life of someone else. We may plot and plan our lives, we may think we are our own master, but God’s hand is all over it, he is arranging situations and using circumstances that seem messy and painful to us, but he is creating a beautiful picture that someday we will understand. As I was thinking about this whole idea of God’s providence and his sovereign care for us, I came across the Heidelberg catechism which talks about providence and says, “we can be patient when things go against us, thankful when things go well, and for the future we can have good confidence in our faithful God and Father that nothing will separate us from his love. All creatures are so completely in his hand that without his will they can neither move nor be moved.” Because we have a sovereign God, who is at work all the time, even in the mire and the mess, we can be patient when things go against us. We can be thankful when things go well. And for the future we have confidence that nothing will separate us from his love. Providence gives us a new perspective on our tragedies. Providence gives us courage to keep going. As we close, I want us to take a moment and talk to God about any areas that he has been speaking to us through his word. Is there anything that he is calling you to respond to? Are there any changes you need to make? Do you need to open your eyes again to see people and areas where God is providing, or where you need to reach out to? Or perhaps you’re in a place where you don’t know if God’s way is the best, there are other fields that seem greener around you, perhaps you are even looking back at your old way of life and thinking of returning, can I encourage you to stay in the field, the place that God has you. In his presence, you have his protection, his guidance, and he will provide everything that you need. Walk with him step by step. You may not feel it, or see it, but God is saying to hang on, to keep trusting in Him, to shelter under his protection and keep walking obediently with him. God we thank you for your favour toward us. We thank you have you provide for our every need. That you have given us grace and life and hope. We are yours. In Boaz, we see a picture of you God and everything that you provide for us – you give us relationship with you and with others, you are our protection and you satisfy our every need. Holy Spirit help us to keep trusting, to keep following, help us to stay in the field that God has us in, not looking back, not looking for something else to satisfy – help us to trust in you and to know that you are working even if we can’t see it.

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