Advent: Hope for the Hurting, Part 2 - Radical

Advent: Hope for the Hurting, Part 2

When we walk through trials and suffering, it’s often difficult to believe that God is working for our good. However, in this message from David Platt from Ruth 2, we’re reminded of God’s steadfast love, a love that seeks the hurting and shelters the vulnerable. As we wait for Him, we can trust Him based on His character and His past faithfulness.

Advent: Hope for the Hurting, Part 2

Hope Happens series

Today we come to the second Sunday of a three-part series on hope in the book of Ruth. I cannot wait to dive back into this story. I’m praying that, much like last week, you will be freshly encouraged today—not just by hearing this story, but by seeing yourself in this story. I’m praying that today some people’s lives might be forever changed, not just by hearing the story, but by realizing that you are part of a much bigger story that includes God’s love for you. 

If you weren’t here last week, let me review where we are in the story of Ruth. It is a love story that is far better than any movie you could watch or romance novel you could read in our culture today. A  woman named Naomi was married to her husband Elimelech and they had two sons. They left Bethlehem in the Promised Land during a time of famine and went to Moab, a forbidden land, known for idolatry and immorality. Moabite women, in particular, had once seduced Israelite men into sexual immorality and  24,000 people died as a result. This was a forbidden place and a forbidden people. 

When Naomi’s family got there, her two sons married Moabite women named Orpah and Ruth.  Then Naomi’s husband and her two sons died unexpectedly. So Naomi was left alone in a foreign land with two Moabite daughters-in-law. She heard that food was available in Bethlehem, so she decided to go back home. She tried to persuade Orpah and Ruth to stay in Moab for their good and Orpah did so. But  Ruth clung to Naomi and committed herself to be with Naomi, support her, live with her and die with her,  following her God. 

Thus Naomi came back to Bethlehem with Ruth and chapter one ends with a picture of bitterness,  sadness, and suffering. Naomi had left Bethlehem with everything and in her words, she came back with nothing but a Moabite daughter-in-law who was actually a picture of the calamity God had brought upon her. But at the end of chapter one, we saw a glimmer of hope, because the harvest season was just beginning in Bethlehem. The promise we walked away with last week is that God is able to turn sorrowful tragedy into surprising triumph. In the moments when God may seem farthest from us, He may be setting the stage for the greatest display of His faithfulness to us. 

This brings us to Ruth 2. Much like we did last week, I just want us to walk through this story to hear what the original listeners heard when they were told this story, then in the process try to put ourselves in this story. Let’s see the characters’ faces, let’s feel their emotions, and let’s try to catch the beauty and the depth of all that’s happening. We’re going to go verse by verse, pausing along the way.  The Bible says in Ruth 2:1: 

Now Naomi had a relative of her husband’s, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech,  whose name was Boaz. 

At the end of chapter one, we had two main characters—the odd couple, Naomi and Ruth. Things were looking pretty bleak. Remember the two problems we identified that the story has to solve is the fact that these women are in need of food were in need of family.  

Enter Boaz and we need to see two key facts about him. First, he is from the clan of Elimelech,  the single most important social or family group in Israelite society. A clan basically consisted of various families descended from a common ancestor. So as an individual, you were part of a family that was part of a clan, then the clan was ultimately part of a tribe. The clan was significant, because as part of a clan you had responsibilities to care for the other members of your clan. So first, Boaz was from the clan of  Elimelech, Naomi’s husband. 

The second fact about Boaz is that he’s described as a worthy man. Now, this could be a reference to his wealth, but it’s also likely to be a reference to his character. The same phrase in the original language is used to describe Gideon back in Judges 6 as a man of valor and might. These are the same words used there. So amidst a bleak ending of chapter one for this family, chapter two opens up with the picture of a worthy man in this family. At this point, the narrator is telling us about Boaz just by way of  information, then he immediately shifts back to the picture of Naomi and Ruth in verse two: 

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.” 

Here’s the deal. In Israel, God had set up a way to care for the poor during harvest time.  Landowners and harvesters were commanded to leave grain in the corners of their fields in order to provide for those who had no land and no food. It wouldn’t be much. One commentator said it was like trying to survive in the past by selling bottle caps or recycling aluminum cans. But it was more than nothing. 

So Ruth set out to find a field where she could collect a little bit of grain for her and Naomi.  Anybody who was poor like Ruth was dependent on a landowner being willing to leave some grain here or there for those who were less fortunate. As Ruth went out, she was completely at the mercy of finding a  kind landowner. To make matters worse for her, as the author points out, she was “Ruth the Moabite,” the foreigner—and not just a foreigner, but a foreigner with a bad reputation because of where she’s from.  She was literally a woman without a clan and was going as a Moabite alone into the fields of the Israelites, trying to find somebody who would let her collect just a little bit of grain. But with Naomi’s permission, Ruth went out. Listen to verse three. This is good.  

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. 

Don’t you love this? As it turned out, she just so happened to find herself in a field belonging to  Boaz. The language here is intentionally dramatic. Literally, it says, “As chance chanced” —as luck would have it. The aim of the author is clearly to point out that this was no accident. It’s like he’s saying,  “Wouldn’t you know it? Out of all the fields Ruth could have wandered into that day in Bethlehem, she  just so happened to find herself in the field of Boaz.” Then the writer says—just in case you forgot—Boaz is from the clan of Elimelech.  

Don’t miss what the Bible is teaching here. Nothing happens by accident. Not with a sovereign  God Who is in control. I think about this coming week. By God’s grace, on Wednesday, I will celebrate  20 years of marriage to my wife and I often think of the “just so happened” situations in our relationship. I just so happened to be a totally awkward teenage boy, afraid to talk to girls. God just so happened to provide a really cute teenage girl who was totally outgoing, but not yet a Christian. Her friend in high school just so happened to invite her to summer camp one year, and though she initially said no, some circumstances just so happened to change her mind. She just so happened to come to that camp, where she just so happened to come to faith in Christ—and she just so happened to meet me. I won’t bore you with all the just so happened that continued after that week, but long story short, four years of dating and  20 years of marriage later, we have four kids in tow and one on the way, hopefully in February, through adoption, and life has not been the same. 

The point is, ladies and gentlemen, we are not driven by fate. We are not controlled by some blind chance or impersonal coincidence. There is a sovereign God Who is always working in ways we don’t realize for the good of His people and the glory of His name. Look at this next verse—it gets better! And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem.  

Boaz just so happens to walk up at that time. Guys, have you ever sat in a sappy movie that maybe your wife or girlfriend wants to watch and things start happening that are so unrealistic? You think,  “This is absurd. Things never happen this way.” You start to say something, but you look over at your wife or girlfriend and she’s in tears, engrossed in the romance of this story. You’re thinking, “Are you  really buying this?” That’s never happened to me, but I’ve been told that this sometimes happens. But here’s the deal. With the God of the universe, the drama is always planned and it always takes place in His perfect timing.  

And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The Lord be with  you!” And they answered, “The Lord bless you.”

Boaz is like the knight in shining armor, blessing everybody. But listen to what he says next: 

Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young  woman is this?” 

I love it. “Whose young woman is this?” That is Hebrew for, “Check her out.” Notice something interesting though. He doesn’t ask “who” she is. Instead, he asks “whose” she is. The author is bringing us back around to where we started this chapter. What family—what clan—does she belong to? This highlights what for the remainder of the book is the most important question: who does this woman belong to? Who will care for and provide for her? So the foreman replies:  

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. 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.” 

In other words, the foreman said, “This is a woman from Moab with no husband and no one to  care or provide for her.” So Boaz sets out from where he is standing, walks past all the workers in his field to where she is.  

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.” 

How’s that for an Old Testament pick-up line? Maybe not the most romantic, but actually it’s pretty incredible when you think about it. Boaz addresses Ruth with a term of endearment and begins to tell her how he wants to care and provide for her. Listen to verse nine: 

“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.” 

Basically, Boaz tells her, “You stay here in my field. You can glean from the harvest, and no one  will harm you.” Apparently, it was common in that day for someone in Ruth’s position to be mistreated or harmed in the field. It’s interesting that the language here includes the same word that was used back in  Ruth 1:14 when Ruth clung to Naomi. So just like Ruth said to Naomi, “I’m staying with you,” now Boaz is saying to Ruth, “You stay here in my field. You will be provided for, even to the point of getting  replenished by drinks that my men provide.”  

This is astounding. This is a culture where women draw water for men and foreigners draw water for Israelites. Ruth is about to drink water drawn by Israelite men for her. This is shocking. So listen to  how Ruth responds: 

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?”

This might seem over-dramatic, but to original readers, they immediately saw in Ruth profound gratitude and humility. With the language here, the reader immediately remembers that at the start of the day, Ruth set out in search of somebody who would show her favor. Now it’s like she is saying, “I’ve  found the one I was looking for and he has exceeded all my expectations.” She knows this is mercy far beyond what she could have fathomed. She is awed that he has even noticed her and even more so that he is showing her such kindness. This then sets up what is probably the most important interchange in the whole chapter. Listen to what Boaz says in verse 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. 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!” 

These words are majestic and poetic in the original language, as Boaz talks about how God is a  Rewarder and a Refuge for Ruth, in light of all she’s done for Naomi. Listen to how Ruth responds: 

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.” 

Basically, Ruth is saying, “I am on the lowest rung of the social ladder and you—the lord of the harvest—have spoken to me? You have comforted my heart?” Once again, just like Naomi was silenced by Ruth’s words in chapter one, Boaz is now silenced by Ruth’s words in chapter two—at least until later in the day.  

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. 

Yes. The first date in the book of Ruth is a nice romantic meal over roasted grain, but this is more than just a meal. This is a picture, a symbol, and it is shocking. Boaz offers her food; literally serves her food. He goes to this Moabite woman and says, “Here’s some bread. You can dip it in the vinegar.”  

Here’s what I think that’s like. Have you ever been to a restaurant like Macaroni Grill or Brio?  Particularly early on when Heather and I had young kids, we could go to a restaurant like that, sit outside so they could make a lot of noise, split a meal Heather, split a meal for the kids, then fill everybody up on that really good bread with that oil-vinegar-pepper combo. And we would get out of there for about $20.  It was pretty amazing, but doesn’t work quite as well now that our kids are older.  

I picture Ruth and Boaz at the Barley Grill having some bread and that really good vinegar. Ruth is loving it. She is chowing down. She eats until she’s full, has some left over, and then verse 15 says this: 

When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. And also pull out some from the bundles  for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.”

Boaz calls his friends together and says, “All right, guys, you’ve got to help me out in this thing.”  He makes sure Ruth is not only protected, but provided for in his fields. “You leave some good grain  specifically for her.” So what happens? 

So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and  it was about an ephah of barley. 

An ephah? Let me shed a little light here. Do you know how much an ephah is? It’s about half to two-thirds of a bushel, which is about 30 to 50 pounds of barley. To put that in perspective, for an ancient  Babylonian, the average ratio of a male worker was one to two pounds a day. She just gathered 30 to 50. That’s at least half a month’s wages in one day. Here’s how we know Ruth did CrossFit: 

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. 

Not only did Ruth have enough grain from one day to feed them for several weeks, but we find out Ruth had brought her leftover food from the Barley Grill to share with Naomi. Ruth had been storing bread in her pockets. She had 30 to 50 pounds of grain plus some bread from the Barley Grill, so Naomi is giddy, to say the least. Naomi used to say her name is bitter. Now it means giddy. Listen to this scene  and compare it with the last time we saw Naomi: 

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.” 

Do you notice how she’s repeating herself here? This is intentional. The author is showing the words kind of tumbling out of Naomi’s mouth. She can’t even get her thoughts straight, she’s so excited.  This is one happy mother-in-law. Her first question is: “What man did you meet?” Now, we know who it is, but the author intentionally waits until the last word of Ruth’s response to reveal his name to Naomi. It’s almost like we are looking at Naomi’s face, because we cannot wait to see her reaction when she hears whose field Ruth has been in. Keep in mind, Ruth doesn’t know the significance of Boaz being in  Elimelech’s clan at this point. So she just responds casually: 

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.” 

And Naomi goes nuts: 

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!” 

Pause here and circle that word “kindness” which is one of the most important words, not just in the book of Ruth, but in the whole Old Testament. We’ll talk about that more in a minute. Listen to how  Naomi then fills Ruth in on the secret: 

Naomi also said to her, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.” 

Stop there and circle the word “redeemer.” This is also one of the most important words in the book because in God’s law, God had provided for family to help other family members and the clan to help other members in their clan, who were destitute in a variety of ways. One of the significant ways they could help someone in their family or clan was to redeem their property. Basically they would purchase or buy back what belonged to a husband who had died, bringing all that belonged to him back into the family. So Naomi said to Ruth, “This man Boaz is a potential redeemer to us.” Ruth says, “Well,  he told me to stay with him.”  

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.’” 

Then Naomi, the quintessential mother-in-law, starts plotting.: 

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.” So she kept close to the young women of Boaz, gleaning until the end of the barley and wheat harvests.  

Over the next six to seven weeks, Ruth continues to work in Boaz’s field. That means the first problem has been solved. Ruth and Naomi have food—more than enough food—for the rest of the year. But the second problem—family—is still not solved. That leads to the last sentence of the chapter: And she lived with her mother-in-law. 

Are you serious? Out of all the action we see in this chapter, it ends by saying, “Ruth lived with  her mother-in-law.” Talk about anti-climactic. Really? That’s it? Boaz doesn’t do anything else? What is he thinking? Do something, man. You are Ruth-less. [I couldn’t wait for that moment. Sorry, I just  couldn’t help it.] But that’s how chapter two ends, with Ruth and Naomi waiting. So do we stop here, or go a little further? I can’t resist; I just want to do a little bit more—maybe like a preview, like the end of a  TV show when it says, “Next week on this show…” then you see scenes for the next week. So let me do that for a minute, because chapter three is a doozy, and things get dicey.  

Ruth makes a move that turns up the temperature on the romance. Chapter three contains some of the most surprising and even sensuous language that we see in the whole book. Let’s just read the first few verses. Ruth is living with Naomi and working in Boaz’s field. Boaz is doing nothing, so Naomi, the mother-in-law, decides it’s time to do something.  

Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you?

What’s interesting is the word Naomi uses here for “rest” literally refers to security and happiness that are found in marriage to a loving husband. So translation, Naomi just said to Ruth, “You need a  husband.” The problem is that Ruth is a foreigner, a Moabite in an Israelite world. Sure, she’s been  working in Boaz’s field, but it’s not like Ruth is going to go up to Boaz in the middle of the field one day  and say, “Marry me.” So instead, Naomi comes up with a plan.  

Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. 

Two notes here. First, Naomi reminds Ruth that Boaz was a relative, which means he had the right to provide for Ruth in Israelite society. More specifically, Boaz was an eligible bachelor. Second,  that night he would be winnowing barley. So now the harvest had been collected, which means the men would separate the grain from the chaff, often in an isolated area. They would toss the threshed grain into the air, the wind would catch the chaff and blow it away, while the heavier grain would fall to the ground.  Then after the men finished doing that, they would often sleep there to guard the grain. So basically this would be a time when Boaz would be alone, so Ruth could approach him in a secluded situation. This sets the stage for two of the shadiest verses in the book of Ruth, verses three and four. Naomi says to Ruth: 

Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies. Then go and uncover  his feet and lie down, and he will tell you what to do.” 

Okay. So Naomi just said, “Ruth, first you need to get cleaned up.” This is more than just, “Hey,  Ruth, you kind of smell bad. If you’re going to see Boaz, you need to smell better.” There’s a really interesting parallel to this over in 2 Samuel 12:20 where the language is exactly the same. David did this exact same thing when he washed and put on lotions and fine clothes to signify that he was finished mourning after his son had died. This is basically a symbol that this childless widow is now putting behind her mourning and putting herself forward as available for marriage. And she’s going to smell better.  

Naomi says, “Get washed up, put on perfume and your best clothes, then go down to where Boaz is. Stay out of sight until he’s finished eating and drinking.” In other words, you want him in the best mood possible. The implication is in no way here that Boaz would be drunk. It’s just a picture of a man who is happier once he’s had a nice meal. Naomi continues and the language here is a euphemism that basically communicates a sense of: “Okay, listen, every detail is critical here. Here’s what you’re going to do. Wait until he lies down and when he does, go over to him, uncover his feet and lie down.”  

Now, if you are listening to this story in its original context, you are blushing right now. If your kids are sitting nearby, you are covering their ears. This is intense stuff. The way the author does it is so breathtaking in the original language, because the language is intentionally ambiguous and suggestive.  Three main Hebrew words are used: uncover, legs, lie down. All of these are words that are charged with overtones that would just send the minds of hearers racing. It feels even weird to read this on Sunday morning, but it’s God’s Word, so just listen to the words: uncover a man, see his legs, lie down next to him.  

You’re listening to this and thinking, “Man, what is Naomi thinking?” This is my favorite part;  listen to how Naomi started. “When he lies down, observe the place where he lies.” In other words,  “Ruth, make sure you know where Boaz is. Do not do this to the wrong guy.” Wouldn’t that just royally mess up the story? “Oh, wrong legs. Sorry.” Because whatever “lie down at his feet” means, this is a clear sign that to Boaz that Ruth desires him. This gesture will be daring and potentially dangerous. I mean,  think of what could happen if Boaz does not respond favorably to this. Any number of things could happen. Boaz could scold Ruth immediately. He could make a mockery of what she had done and send her back home, never to come back to his field. Or Boaz could take advantage of her in a way that would be dangerous for her. This is very risky. A woman proposing to a man, a field worker proposing to the field owner, a Moabite proposing to an Israelite—this was risky to say the least. And with all that’s hanging in the balance, this could be disastrous. But look at Ruth’s commitment to Naomi, her mother-in-law: 

And she replied, “All that you say I will do.” 

For 55 words in the original language, we have this exquisite plan from Naomi, then in five words in the Hebrew, Ruth says, “Okay. I’ll do it.” And the scene closes. That’s where we’re going to stop. Do not read ahead. You cannot read ahead. Do not spend the rest of this sermon reading chapters three and four. Don’t do it. You will miss the point of chapter two. We’re going to finish next week, but for this week, we need to soak in what chapter two means.  

Let’s think about this together. One of the things I love most about the book of Ruth is that much of what God does in this book is seemingly behind the scenes. Boaz and Ruth, for example, are center stage in chapter two, just like Ruth and Naomi are center stage in chapter one. But the whole story is written to show us the character of God revealed in these characters at the center of the story. In chapter one, Ruth’s love and devotion to Naomi are a picture of God’s love and devotion to Naomi. Here in chapter two, Boaz’s kindness toward Ruth and Naomi is a picture of God’s kindness toward Ruth and  Naomi.  

Look back at Ruth 2:20. As soon as Naomi hears what Boaz has done, what does she say? “May  he be blessed by the Lord” —Yahweh, God— “whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead.” What’s really interesting in that verse is there’s a lot of debate about whether or not the “whose” in that verse is referring to Boaz or to the Lord. Is it Boaz’s kindness that has not forsaken the living or the dead?

Or is it God’s kindness that has not forsaken the living or the dead?. The point of the book is that it’s both.  The kindness of Boaz is a reflection of the kindness of God.  

The Hebrew word translated “kindness” in this verse is hesed, a word whose meaning really cannot be captured in one English word. Kindness is a good translation, but it doesn’t do the word justice.  When people heard it in this story, they would picture love, mercy, goodness, loyalty, thankfulness, and kindness all wrapped up into one. When you hear this word, you immediately picture somebody who is so good, selfless, loving, merciful, and kind that they will go out of their way to work extravagantly, crossing all kinds of barriers, on someone’s behalf. 

We now have to put all this together and consider what this means for our lives, based on our understanding that the book of Ruth was written to show us the character of God in the characters of the story. In chapter two we have two women who are hurting from all that life has thrown at them and who are in need of hope. Specifically, we have an outcast woman working in a field. Then we have a redeemer,  the lord of the harvest, who goes out of his way to cross all kinds of barriers to work extravagantly on their behalf.  

But you might be wondering, “What does this story have to do with me, sitting right here in  December 2019?” Here’s what it has to do with you and me. Ladies and gentlemen, we are Ruth. Every single one of us has a story of sin and shame in our past. Every single one of us knows, to different degrees, the hurt and pain of life in a world of sin and suffering. But what I want you to see today is that the Lord of the harvest, the Redeemer—God Himself—has looked upon you, right where you are sitting.  

God seeks the hurting as His family. 

The book of Ruth is teaching us that in the middle of our shame and hurt, God seeks us as His family. The reality is there is nothing in us to draw the Lord of the harvest to us. The Bible teaches He has pursued us anyway. See yourself in this story because the Bible teaches that God has pursued you. Not just the person next to you, behind you, in front of you, God has called your name. God has crossed the ultimate barriers to come to you in a much greater way than the book of Ruth could ever depict. Talk about divine drama! 

God has come to us, born in a Bethlehem stable. God has come to us in the person of Jesus. He has left His throne in glory to live among us and care for us. Ultimately it was no accident, mere chance or coincidence when soldiers arrest Him. It was no accident when they mocked, beat, scourged and spit upon Him. It was no accident when they nailed Him to a cross. This was divine drama, because the Lord of the harvest came for one purpose: to lay down His life for you and me. 

Then three days after He died, He rose from the grave. That means anyone, anywhere, no matter who you are, what you have done or how you have hurt, you can be called a daughter or son of God. 

Ladies and gentlemen, the Lord of the harvest has left His throne in glory to pursue you, right where you’re sitting. God seeks the hurting as His family. 

God shelters the hurting under His wings. 

The language in Ruth 2 is exactly what we see in Psalm 91:1: “He who dwells in the shelter of the  Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” Under His wings you will find refuge. I do not know what hurts you have walked through in your life or what hurts you are walking through right now in your life.  

I was standing out in the lobby after the first gathering today, talking to people about things they’re walking through right now. I certainly had no idea that this person or that person was walking through this or that. But the truth of the Bible is that God knows exactly what you’re walking through.  Not only does He know, but He promises to be your shelter, to give you refuge under His wings. Right now and for whatever you face in the future, you can find refuge under the wings of God Himself.  

God serves the hurting at His table. 

Don’t miss this picture in this meal at the Barley Grill. See yourself at the table and realize the  Lord of the harvest has invited you sit at His table—and not just to sit there, but to be served by Him. The  God of the universe has stooped to serve you at His table, to shock you with His love, to speak to your heart, and to satisfy your desires. Then, when you rise from the table, He allows you to reap from His field.  

I urge every single person within the sound of my voice, in the words of Boaz, stay in the fields of God. Teenagers, do not run after the pleasures this world offers. The field of Christ satisfies so much better than all that stuff put together. Stay in His field. College students, young professionals, don’t run after all the stuff this world is dangling before you. Stay in God’s field.  

Singles, men and women all across this gathering, there are fields around you beckoning for you to run after—this person, that position, a better life, a bigger house, a nice car, newer things, higher positions, worldly passions. Don’t do it. Stay in His field. You do not need to run into the fields of materialism or pornography or addiction or immorality. Don’t run to those fields. You will seek and taste and toil, but in the end, you will inevitably find yourself unprotected and unfulfilled. Stay in His field. The  Lord of the harvest is the only One Who can provide for your needs and satisfy your soul.  

God showers the hurting with His grace. 

God not only shelters the hurting under His wings, He showers the hurting with His grace in ways you cannot fathom. See Ruth hauling 30 to 50 pounds of grain and lunch leftovers. See yourself and hear  the promise of God to you in Philippians 4:19: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Hear this good news. God, in His hesed—in His loving, merciful,  good kindness toward all who trust in Him—goes out of the way to work extravagantly on your behalf.  That’s good news. 

In the midst of our waiting, the “hesed” of God reminds us that He is working. 

I’m guessing some of you today might be thinking, “I’m hurting right now. I’ve walked through hard times or I’m walking through hard times right now. Quite honestly, I don’t see God’s kindness and  love and goodness, but it’s what I long to see.” If that’s the case, I want to encourage you, especially today.  One of the problems with reading this book or hearing it is things move so fast in the story, but in reality things are moving really slowly.  

We talked about this in chapter one. In the matter of three verses, there were ten torrential years of tragedy. It took us 20 seconds to read about ten years of three deaths, pain, hurt, loss, questions, long days, and sleepless nights. That’s just one example. Think about all the time it takes to journey from  Bethlehem to Moab and from Moab to Bethlehem. We even joked at the end of chapter two where it said,  “Ruth lived with her mother-in-law.” Nothing else happened for days and days and weeks and weeks, as they waited.  

We don’t really feel the agony of all those days, weeks, months, and years. But that’s why I  included this last truth, because, amidst all that time, the book of Ruth teaches that in the midst of our waiting, the hesed —the lovingkindness and faithfulness of God—reminds us that He is working. He’s working, even when we don’t see it tomorrow or the next day or the next day. 

Don’t doubt this good, loving, kind God. For every single person in the sound of my voice, please hear this. Whoever wonders why this is happening or when this is going to end, you can always know that behind the scenes, in ways you don’t see, there is a good, loving, merciful, kind, sovereign God Who is going out of His way to work extravagantly on behalf of everyone who trusts in Him.  

Let me ask you to bow your heads and close your eyes with me. I want to do two things. First, I  want to ask every single person have you put your trust in the lovingkindness of God? Have you put your faith, trust, and hope in Jesus and what He has done for you to save you from your sin and to bring you into God’s family, to shelter you under His wings?  

If you have not, today I invite you to make this the day when your life changes forever, when you put your trust in Jesus, the Lord of the harvest, Who has pursued you and brought you to this point.  You are not here by accident. God in His divine drama has brought you here to hear of His love and to receive it today.  

So I invite you to say in your heart to God, right where you’re sitting, “Dear God, I know I’m a  sinner. I know that I am separated from You by my sin. But today I realize and believe that You have sought after me, that You have crossed all the barriers. You have sent Jesus to die on the cross for me. And today, I trust in Him as my Lord. Save me from my sins and bring me into Your family. Seat me at Your  table where I can rest under the shadow and shelter of Your wings—now, and for all of eternity.”  With our heads still bowed, if you just prayed that to God, would you just lift up your hand  where you are as a picture of you saying, “Yes, I receive Your love.”  

O God, I praise You for sovereignly orchestrating the details of people’s lives, bringing them to this point to hear of Your love and receive Your love. Thank You for pursuing us and for pursuing these who have just raised their hands. Or even if they didn’t raise their hand, Lord, maybe they prayed this in their hearts. I just pray that You would give them courage today, along with others who may not yet have done this, to publicly confess, “I’m a child of God. I am a follower of Jesus and I trust Him in my life.”  

This leads to the second thing. As our heads are bowed and our eyes closed, I want to ask everyone who may have put your trust in Jesus in the past—maybe many years or even decades ago—but  I want to ask you in a fresh way, “Do you trust Him today? Amidst whatever is going on in your life, do  you trust Him today?” I want to remind you, that just like you trusted Him that first day, you can trust  Him today. He still loves you with a hesed kind of love—a kind, faithful, gentle, extravagant love—that goes out of its way to work on your behalf, even when you don’t see it. 

God, I pray for those who are hurting right now especially. I pray for those who are having a hard time seeing You working. I pray they would feel Your love for them in this moment, that they would know that they have refuge under the shadow of Your wings, that they are seated at Your table where You promise to serve them with everything they need. Even in their waiting, You will give them grace, strength, help, wisdom, perseverance, and faith—everything they need.  

God, I know I’m praying what You have promised to do. So amidst our hurting, draw us into a  deeper experience of Your love as we hope together, knowing there is a day when sin will be no more.  There is a day coming when suffering will be no more and You will wipe away every tear from our eyes.  We put all of our hope in You and say together, “We trust You. We praise You for being the God of hesed,  the God Who loves like this.” In the name of the One Who makes all this possible, in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

How can we apply this passage to our lives?

Question 1

What is the “Hesed” of God?

Question 2

According to God’s Word, how can we know that even in the midst of our waiting that He is working?

Question 3

Reflect on times of sorrow and suffering in your own life. In what ways did God shower you with His grace?

Question 4

Why do we need to be served by God? How did Jesus explain our need to be served? (see Mark 10:35–45)

Question 5

What does it mean to be apart of the family of God? How does the book of Ruth show us the joy there is in belonging to God?

Now Naomi had a relative of her husband’s, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. 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.” 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. And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you!” And they answered, “The Lord bless you.”

Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” 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. 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.” 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.”

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?” 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. 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!”

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.” 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. When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.” So she gleaned in the field until evening.

Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. 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. 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.” 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.” 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.’” 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.” 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 3:1-5

Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you?” Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down, and he will tell you what to do.” And she replied, “All that you say I will do.”

God seeks the hurting as His family.

God shelters the hurting under His wings.

God serves the hurting at his table.

God showers the hurting with His grace.

Philippians 4:19

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

In the midst of our waiting, the “Hesed” of God reminds us that He is working.

 

David Platt serves as a pastor in metro Washington, D.C. He is the founder and chairman of Radical. He is the author of several books, including Radical, Radical Together, Follow Me, Counter Culture, and Something Needs to Change.

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