Sunday 23rd August

Service Transcript & Video

I love Maeve Binchy’s short story  about someone taking ‘cold feel’ at the last moment and pulling out…

It’s the story of a young couple, the night before their wedding. The flowers were in the church, the guests were arriving from all over and the marriage is just hours away. Then this… Her finance is sitting, ashen faced, stumbling for words to tell her that he couldn’t go through with it. He had taken ‘cold feet’ and was pulling out of the wedding.

To save face she persuaded him to let her be the one who didn’t turn up for the wedding. He agreed. 

So the next day as promised there he was, standing at the front of the church and right on time, the church doors opened… and the bride walked in on the arm of her father, looking absolutely radiant.

The marriage went through and the couple didn’t discuss what had happened …  until the honeymoon….

 But the upshot of it all was that she knew him better than he knew himself…  Wasn’t he glad that SHE took the initiative…and went ahead and followed through with the wedding.

On the face of it.. Ruth chapter 3 looks a bit like the first woman in history to seize the initiative and propose marriage to a man who is a bit slow and needs some female wisdom…but let me assure you…  

There is so much MORE to the story than that..

Let’s open WIDE our hearts and minds and listen for those whispers of the Holy Spirit as He speaks to us from this Scripture to-day.

 

 

  1. Naomi… Remarkable kindness and care    ( 2v 23 – 3v 4)

Chp 2 ends (v23) with the information that Ruth worked in Boaz fields through the whole 7 weeks or so of the harvest season and brought food home ever day to Naomi. Which was fantastic… because these 2 widows had absolutely NO other way of getting food for themselves… 

It literally was a case of…    glean or starve.

But the harvest season has come to an end and Naomi is concerned about the long term welfare of Ruth. 

I need to remind you just how desperately vulnerable and precarious life was for widows in Israel in those days…

No husband, no work, no money, no food, no security, no one to provide and protect… only a desperately bleak and uncertain future.

Naomi is concerned.. Not so much for herself, because she is an older woman…  but for the future of her lovely young  daughter in law Ruth…

The One glimmer of hope in this dark and dismal future is found in 2v20 when Naomi volunteers this information about Boaz.  

“The LORD bless him…   His kindness…  close relatives… he is one of our kinsman redeemers.”

God’s kindness is in Hebrew  ‘hesed kindness’. Throughout the O.T. it is used over and over again to describe GOD’s remarkable kindness, His unfailing love, His steadfast love.. a very costly, totally selfless, sacrificial kind of loving kindness whereby GOD cares for his people who do not deserve His love and cannot repay it…

In the N.T. it describes the hesed, the ‘remarkable kindness’ of Jesus…  who reaches out to care for the least, the last, the lost and heals them, feeds them, forgives them, saves them…   and us!! 

So Naomi in her kindness comes up with a plan to provide for Ruth. 

Normally it would be the man who would arrange marriages in Israel. But there was NO man.. so Naomi seizes the initiative….and takes the responsibility (3v1) to find a home (lit a rest) a secure place for Ruth where she will be protected and provided for.

I don’t know if you grasp this. 

This was a remarkable kindness of Naomi as she puts Rutha and her needs before herself and her own needs. If Ruth does marry, then Naomi will be on her own again.

 This is selfless, sacrificial, costly hesed loving kindness… that cares for others rather than yourself

Such stunning kindness was remarkable in Naomi’s day… 

Such stunning care and kindness is remarkable in Donaghadee…  in our day…  

But it surely ought to mark our lives as followers of Jesus. It ought to mark the way WE treat one another….  and others…

Q. Does such stunning kindness  mark your life and your relationships?

Q. Are you known in your circles  for remarkable kindness and for the way that you care for those around you at work, among your friends, at church?

 

The plan is simple, but scary…  (v2 – 4)

Ruth is to go down to the threshing floor where Boaz is, take off her old ‘widow’ clothes (v3)  that she wore and put on new ones  as a visible sign that she is ready to move on and is available for marriage… 

and then see what Boaz will say!! 

This is a HIGH RISK strategy..

 

2. RUTH… Remarkable kindness and RISK taking. ( v 5- 8)

To understand what is going on in the threshing floor in chapter 3 you’ve got to appreciate a couple of things about Israelite culture that is so foreign /alien to us as Westerners.

  1. Marriage in that culture was NOT primarily about romance, love and all that sort of stuff like it is on our culture. It was a much more practical matter in that marriage provided for women a place of security, rest, safety, peace of mind from the harsh realities of the poverty and destitution of widowhood.

 

  1. In an Israelite family 2 issues were of paramount importance in that culture.

1st issue was The survival of the family name by having a son who would carry it on into the next generation.

BUT Naomi’s 2 sons had died and the family Name of her husband Elimelech faced extension…  unless … Ruth could marry someone and  bear a son, because Naomi was too old to do so now. 

             (This was a serious issue in that culture)

The only possible hope for Ruth  was something called ‘the levirate marriage’…  where if a man died without a son, the man’s brother (or near realitive) was to marry his widow sister in law and have a son through her…  who would be the dead man’s heir and carry on the family name

For the widow it also had the added bonus of  providing   shelter and care for her, otherwise she would be in a desperate and destitute situation.

I know it sounds weird to us.. and I know that some of you are sitting there thinking.. 

O imagine if my husband died and I had to marry my brother- in law and have a child with him… Absolute Nightmare!!

But it was actually  a law of love  and an expression of God’s provision for the poor and the vulnerable in that culture. (Deut 25v 5-10)

 

2ndissue was  The question of keeping the family land and inheritance  in the family hands…

 Elimelech had moved from Bethlehem and forfeited  his family land and inheritance which was a HUGE loss  and shame in that culture… 

The only hope of ever regaining those lands and inheritance was if a   go’el/ a kinsman redeemer .. a near relative could be found who would be willing…  in an act of extraordinary hesed kindness and grace….  to buy back (redeem) the family land and put it back into the family’s hand again…. 

No wonder Naomi’s face lit with excitement in 2v20 when she announces to Ruth that Boaz isn’t just any man…  He is in fact a near realitive of Elimelech and a ‘kinsman Redeemer’….  

Someone who might help and rescue them out of their perilous condition…

There is a lot riding on this encounter between Ruth and Boaz as she goes down to the threshing floor that night…

 And I want you to grasp and I would love you to understand  the humility, the faith, the remarkable kindness of Ruth in taking this enormous risk in going to ask Boaz for marriage… and that she is willing to do this..

v5 “I will do whatever You say”… whatever it takes, whatever it costs me… Because I have promised to stick with you, to care for you, to be totally committed and loyal to you… come what may. ( 1v 16-17)

Ruth is a remarkable woman…. Taking an incredible RISK because of her hesed kindness to her mother in law… that puts her mother in law and her needs, even before herself and her own happiness and fufillment.

O that we treated one another with such kindness.. with God’s kindness and mercy and grace… 

Q. What would our relationships look like in our families and friends… if we were to be like Ruth.

 So according to the plan Ruth goes down and hides in the threshing floor until Boaz is on his own and fast asleep and then she goes and lies down at his feet…

 ( NOTE: she’s NOT trying to seduce him… jump into bed with him… that’s Not what this is about…)

Taking the posture of a servant… she is going to make a HUGE request of him… that might possibly give him cold feet.!!

At midnight (v8) something startles Boaz and he wakes up in fright… and Ruth seizes the moment and makes her BOLD request for marriage (v 9)

“I am your servant Ruth… Spread the corner of your cloak over me since you are a kinsman redeemer”

The word for garment is very similar in Hebrew to the word for ‘wings’…  and this phrase is very similar to the words Boaz had spoken to Ruth in the harvest field (2v 12) 

In fact it’s almost identical to the phrase in Ezekiel 16 v8-9 where the LORD speaks about His love for His covenant  people and says to Israel His bride…

“I spread the corner of my garment over you… and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign LORD and you became Mine.”                                   Ezekiel 16 v8-9

 

At this point YOU are meant to HOLD your breath… and WAIT to see how Boaz is going to react….

Remember…The odds are stacked against Ruth… Remember in this culture…

She is a woman taking the initiative to ask a man to marry her… unheard of!!

Not only a woman.. but a much younger woman… a widow woman… 

NOT only that.. She is a destitute migrant worker, not One of God’s covenant people…  who had more or less begged to work in Boaz field and pick up whatever scraps there were leftover…

Think of one of the foreign national women who beg on the streets of Belfast asking and requesting the Owner of the Europa Hotel to marry him!!!

But again… I want you to grasp this…

 Ruth is a remarkable woman… whose remarkable hesed kindness to her mother in law Naomi… means that she does NOT think about herself first… BUT puts the needs of Naomi and her family.. before herself.

“Do Nothing out of selfish ambition, but in humility, consider others better than yourself. Each of you should look NOT only to your own interests, BUT also to the interests of others… Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus.”                                           Philippians 2v2-5

            Our culture is all about ‘ME’… 

Find yourself.. Discover yourself.. Fufill yourself… Make yourself happy… You deserve it.. You’re worth it…

I know what they’re saying… But in reality it often overspills into a very self centred.. self absorbed.. ME fulfilling lifestyle.. it’s all about ME and My happiness…

Jesus calls us to something radically different.. a radical hesed kindness towards those around us.. that takes RISKS and puts others and their needs before myself and my fulfilment…  It’s the Jesus way… We see it in Ruth.

 

  1. BOAZ… Remarkable kindness and sacrificial generosity.

                                                   V10-18

Please don’t think of Boaz as an older man who is  a bit slow on love and needs a bit of a push from a better woman… That’s NOT what this chapter is about..

Boaz totally gets it.. 

He knows exactly what Ruth is asking him to do…

And indeed He seems genuinely moved and touched by Ruth’s hesed kindness (v10) in putting   loyalty to her dead husband’s family and their needs…  before her own personal preferences. She hasn’t run after younger men..(v10)

 

We know Boaz.. what kind of man he is.. a man of real integrity and character…a man of faith, who loves the LORD…(chapter2v 1, v4,v12)

He could have totally rejected RUTH… been offended by her… chased her from the threshing floor… made her the laughing stock of Bethlehem… 

But He doesn’t so any of those things..

 

Instead (v10-11) BOAZ praises her… calls on the LORD to bless her..  speaks tenderly to her.. and far from being inappropriate and brash… Boaz praises her and reassures her…

V11 “And now my daughter.. afraid.. I will do for you all that you ask…….  noble character.” 

WOW!!

In his hesed kindness … this strong, powerful, wealthy man is willing to reach out to Ruth and Naomi… who have nothing…   and in this culture….  are NOTHING…  and have NOTHING to offer him..

to rescue and redeem them from their desperate situation…

 

And then just when everything  is going better than anyone could imagine.. comes a twist in the story that meant to make your heart jump… (v12)

Boaz breaks the bad news to Ruth..

SHE has asked the wrong man to marry her and be her Redeemer. It’s true that he is a near relative… 

BUT… there is another man who is closer still and therefore has priority of choice over Boaz..

 

However Boaz promises (v13) that if this other man opts out of his responsibility… he pledges under God to marry Ruth and become the Redeemer of Naomi’s family.

 

As a expression of his intentions, his generosity, his kindness, his thoughtfulness, his commitment to Naomi and Ruth….  he sends her home with a huge amount of grain..(v15) six measures of grain… for Naomi (v17)

 

And you and I are meant to turn back to 1v21 where Naomi returned to Bethlehem in brokenness and despair  declaring that the LORD had brought her back empty..

 

By God’s grace and the hesed kindness of God’s people, especially Boaz… Naomi’s days of ‘empty’ are over…

 

BOAZ is her Redeemer… Rescuer… Saviour… Protector…

THE LORD has provided for her.. 

He is taking away her emptiness and he is filling her.. satisfying her out of  His fullness..

HE always does….

 

I love what the singer Sinead O conner said

“As a race we feel empty .. As a result we’re encouraged to fill that gap with alcohol, drugs, sex, or money and the things money buys.People out there are screaming for the truth.”

 

Of course folks as you see God’s gracious provision for Naomi in the Person of Boaz her Kinsman Redeemer.. here in the O.T….

You and I from our standpoint to-day are meant to see how this story prepares us for a even greater and more generous Redeemer …

 in Jesus .. our Saviour, Brother, Friend and LORD

 

We NOW know   .. that All God’s riches are made available to us through our precious Redeemer JESUS… 

 

“For you know the grace of our LORD Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you, through His poverty might become rich.”

                                                                  2 Corinthians 8v9

 

“For you know, that it was Not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”

                                                                    1 Peter 1v 18-19

 

Charles Wesley’s glorious hymn… Jesus Lover of My soul

        Jesus, lover of my soul,

Let me to Thy bosom fly,

While the nearer waters roll,

While the tempest still is high.

Hide me, O my Savior, hide,

Till the storm of life is past;

Safe into the haven guide;

Oh, receive my soul at last.

Other refuge have I none,

Hangs my helpless soul on Thee;

Leave, ah! leave me not alone,

Still support and comfort me.

All my trust on Thee is stayed,

All my help from Thee I bring;

Cover my defenseless head

With the shadow of Thy wing.

 

Thou, O Christ, art all I want,

More than all in Thee I find;

Raise the fallen, cheer the faint,

Heal the sick, and lead the blind.

Just and holy is Thy Name,

Source of all true righteousness;

Thou art evermore the same,

Thou art full of truth and grace.

 

Plenteous grace with Thee is found,

Grace to cover all my sin;

Let the healing streams abound;

Make and keep me pure within.

Thou of life the fountain art,

Freely let me take of Thee;

Spring Thou up within my heart;

        Rise to all eternity.

 

There is no other Saviour and redeemer apart from JESUS

No One else can satisfy the deepest longings of your soul

 

If your soul is empty to-day… and your heart is broken..

 

If you have a sense that your sin has overwhelmed you and you desperately need a Saviour… a Rescuer.. a Redeemer..

 

Then I Invite you to come to the Cross.. to the Saviour.. to JESUS….

 and in repentance, faith and surrender….

Give your life entirely over to Him 

Welcome into your life

Commit yourselves to live for Him for the rest of your life..

 

I am Not saying that life will be easy…

I’m Not saying that all your struggles will be over…

 

But I am saying that 

JESUS and JESUS alone….

Can wash you, cleanse you, forgive you and come into your life and begin a brand new relationship with you…

 and that HE and He alone can  satisfy  the deepest longings of your soul…

 

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