The Adventure of Hope

Steve Viars September 20, 2009 Ruth 3:1-13

 

- Last Sunday night at our church family night we had the privilege of having several of our seminary interns taking leadership roles in the service…by all accounts, that proved to be a great success and wonderful addition to what we are trying to accomplish with those evening services once a month…

- for those who are newer, I probably need to back up and briefly explain what our seminary is…

- traditionally pastors have a four year undergraduate degree, and then they go to seminary for a three year curriculum that includes studying Greek and Hebrew, the original languages in which the Bible was written, various aspects of biblical and systematic theology, and courses on ministry methods like Christian education, preaching, counseling, etc…

- then you can go on for doctoral training if you desire specialized training in a particular aspect of ministry…but the core training for a pastor has always been the three year Master of Divinity degree…

- back in the old days, I was the prototypical seminary student…

- I had gone through 4 years of Bible college, had just gotten married, no debt, no children…I was going to plow through seminary with my wife working to put me through and me working part time…I’d graduate when I was 25, no debt, well trained, and then find a church, have a family, etc…

- that was the way it worked – in fact the first day I walked into seminary chapel, I sat down in a row of guys that were exactly like me, we were still suntanned from our honeymoon and we were ready for the seminary experience…

- All of that has dramatically changed…now the average seminary student is much older…mid-late 30’s…he generally has several children…often has remaining college debt or other financial obligations…

- usually he was serving in his home church and he and the church leaders believe he is called into ministry…

- so he leaves his established job, home, and church relationships…goes off to seminary where he has to work full time, take classes part time…often going further into debt and between work, class, and studying is putting in a significant number of hours…all of that is a strain on his marriage, his parenting, his spiritual/physical/and emotional health…

- and it is very difficult to be meaningfully involved in participation and service at a church because there just isn’t the time or the energy…

- as I’ve had the privilege of traveling around to teach modules or speak in chapel at these various schools, I’ve been able to observe the effects of this change over the years…

- and in too many cases, the fellow graduates—he’s nearly 40 years old, head over heels in debt, significantly strained in his marriage, parenting, and personal life…

- very little practical experience of actually working in a church…

- and it’s in that condition, we send him off to the mission field or his first pastorate…

- so several years ago, we said – it’s time to change that paradigm…let’s bring seminary ministry back into the local church…that’s not to say that we’re anti-seminary---the model still works for many folks and we applaud that…

- but, for those for whom the traditional model no longer makes sense…let’s start a church-based seminary…so we’ve sent two of our pastors off to complete their PhD’s, one on OT/the other in NT…

- we’ve also contracted with several well known professors to come in and teach short concentrated modules…

- and it works like this…we begin a teaching cycle once every three years…

- so two years ago, we accepted five interns into our program…which meant they had to be debt free with a desire to go into full time ministry and recognized by their church…

- we gave them a paid internship, free housing, and provided their academic training for free…they in turn attend classes one full day per week (since the program lasts 3 full years) along with some of the concentrated courses…

- and they split the rest of their time either studying or serving in various ministry positions in our church…

 - we’ve also communicated to other churches within driving distance of Lafayette…if you have men that you would like to train for ministry in your church, if you’ll provide a paid internship and free housing for your student, you can send him to Lafayette one day a week and we’ll provide the academic piece for free…and we have six other students who are participating in that aspect of the program…

- so the goal is that a year from now, this first class will graduate with a solid academic background, with a strong personal life, marriage, and children, three years of practical ministry experience in a church, and debt free…and we saw last Sunday night what the fruit of that endeavor looks like…

- now, that’s all background for the question I want to pose to you…

- the man who gave our Bible study last Sunday night is Sacha Mendes…he and his wife Anna are from Brazil…and they have been a delightful part of our church family…and God has now given them a little son, Pedro…

- so one of our 5 interns is from Brazil…here’s how that happened…

- three summers ago, I was down in Brazil speaking at a conference and ministering in some churches along with my daughters Bethany and Karis…and Sacha was my translator…

- I had never met him before…but since we were about a year away from starting the seminary at the time…I spoke about it in several settings and it was Sacha’s responsibility to translate what I was saying into Portuguese…

- at some point that week, Sacha became interested in the concept from more than just the perspective of a translator…so he discussed it with Anna who was his girlfriend at the time, and with his pastor in Brazil who eventually even came to Lafayette to check it out before giving the idea his church leaders’ blessing…and then at some point he formally asked if he could be accepted into the program as an intern from oversees…

- now, here’s my question for you…was it wrong for Sacha to initiate that request?...

- if he believed God would provide additional training for he and Anna in preparation for ministry…would it have been better for him to passively wait, and if it was really of God, we would have thought to ask him?...

- here’s the crux of the question – is finding hope in a God who provides a passive position, or a participatory position?...in other words, do you ever initiate some aspect of the process?...not because you don’t trust God, but because you do?...

- do you have any responsibility to move things along?...

- another way of asking this is – does biblical trust passively wait until a door is opened, or does it ever reach out, grab the doorknob, and see if it will open?

- the way you answer those questions will go a long way in determining whether you will truly ever experience The Adventure of Hope…

- with that thought in mind, please open your Bible to Ruth chapter 3…page 200 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you…

- this fall we’re talking about Finding Hope in a God Who Provides…this is a verse by verse study of the book of Ruth…

- now, I realize we have new folks with us every week…and that’s great…

- here’s the very abbreviated summary of where we are in our study…

- this story unfolds in the days when the judges governed…summarized in … Judges 21:25 - In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

- it’s in that setting that a woman named Naomi and her husband Elimelech, and their two sons leave Bethlehem in the land of Judah to sojourn in the land of Moab because of a severe famine…while they were there, Naomi’s husband Elimelech dies…

- her two sons marry Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth…and then the two sons pass away…and neither of their wives had conceived children…

- then they hear that the famine has subsided back in Bethlehem and choose to head back to where Naomi is from…

- but at some point in the journey Naomi sits down with her daughters in law and says…you should go back to Moab, to be with your people, and your gods…the key verse is…Ruth 1:9 - May the Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband…[please note that terminology carefully…it will play an important role in what we’re studying today…]…

- what’s curious about that is Naomi admits that by their doing so…they will be returning to their own gods…which apparently doesn’t matter much to Naomi, because after one of the daughters in law takes her up on the offer, Naomi tries to persuade Ruth to do the same by saying…Ruth 1:15 - Then she said, “Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.”

- see, your hope is in finding a man, regardless of what he believes, and about now, any man will do…she was functioning as an individual like Israel was functioning as a nation…that’s the clear point of all of this – everybody does that which is right in their own eyes…

- in an amazing contrast to that lack of faithfulness, this young Moabite woman says…

Ruth 1:16 - But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God…Ruth believed – The God of Israel is capable of being faithful to me, I choose to be faithful to Him…

- Unfortunately, Naomi chooses the path of bitterness…and when they got to Bethlehem and women of the city asked..isn’t this Naomi…she replies… Ruth 1:20-21 - …“Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.“I went out full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?”

- in the next chapter, Ruth asked permission, since it was the time of the barley harvest, to go glean in the fields in accordance with the provisions in the OT for people who were poor…and she just so happens (the writer teasingly says in verse 3) to come to the fields of a man named Boaz, who was actually a relative of her deceased father-in-law…

- and last week we saw that God led Boaz to treat Ruth in a way that was incredibly abundant…and when Ruth took all that grain home, Naomi’s bitterness finally began to melt…because she started to realize that she was wrong in her bitterness, and Ruth was right in her “hesed”, her covenant loyalty, her unwavering faithfulness…

- but curiously, the chapter ends with nothing…Ruth continues to glean in Boaz’s fields for nearly 2 months…which on the one hand is a blessing, but what about Boaz being the kinsmen redeemer…that part of the story is not advancing a lick…maybe it’s time for someone to do something initiatory…maybe you don’t always wait for a door to open…maybe you reach out and turn the knob yourself…perhaps that’s part of the adventure of hope…”nothing ventured…nothing gained…”

- read 3:1-13

- this morning we’re talking about The Adventure of Hope, and with the time we have remaining, let’s look for 3 reasons that finding hope is an adventure.

I. Finding Hope in the Provision of God is an Adventure Because You Have to Do Your Part.

- that is clearly one of the lessons of this passage…bitter people are often inactive…either because they’ve given up, or they’re angry, or they’re paralyzed by fear…

- but trusting people, faithful people, hopeful people are willing to take steps they will believe will please God and place them in a position to receive His blessing…

- we saw that in chapter 2 – Ruth was the one who initiated the idea of her going out and gleaning in the fields…and she clearly said – perhaps someone will show me favor – meaning, perhaps God will lead someone to obey the OT law about allowing poor people to glean in your fields during a time of harvest…

- and sure that required trust, but it also required a willingness to do her part…

- she didn’t just sit around and wait for a wealthy landowner to come knock on her door – she went out and knocked on his…

- now that Naomi has seen the result of that kind of trust, that kind of faithfulness, that kind of hesed, covenant loyalty to/belief in the God of Israel…now we need to see if Naomi is going to follow suit…

- and I think it’s fair to say that Naomi follows suit…she may have been bitter…she may have believed God couldn’t provide or work out the details…but she’s over that…she is making up for lost time for sure…let’s think about…

A. Naomi’s proposal.

Ruth 3:1 - Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you?

1. The purpose.

- Naomi isn’t focusing on what she can get out of this – she’s concerned for Ruth’s well being as a young widow…and she wants to do something about that…no more stewing around in faithless and inactive bitterness…

- now, the phrase “seek security” is from the Hebrew word manoah – “place of rest”

- it’s directly related to the word she used in chapter 1 verse 9 – go find rest in the home of your new husband, regardless of what he believes…

- but now it’s different, a lot different…and here’s why…

[2. The process.]

[a. She knew who Boaz was.]

- she is pinning her entire plan on this fact…3:2 - Now is not Boaz, our kinsman…

- now we need to stop there for a moment…and I mentioned several weeks ago that we would do this…

- this entire text makes no sense unless we know a bit about OT customs…

- there was a specific provision in the OT law for a situation where a man died without any children…it was called levirate marriage, and it’s outlined in…

- Deuteronomy 25:5-6 - When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a strange man. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. It shall be that the firstborn whom she bears shall assume the name of his dead brother, so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel.

- now I realize that you might hear that and say – “yuk”…that’s because it’s hard for us to understand how vulnerable a position it was for a woman to be a young widow in that culture, and also how important it was for families, or clans to stay together and protect and love and provide for one another…

- there’s a lot that we could say about that that is outside of our purpose today – but please especially think about this – Naomi is basing her entire plan on the appropriateness and trustworthiness of the Word of God…that is, the Word of Jehovah, the God of Israel…

- no more of this “any old god will do” stuff…no more of this everybody does that which is right in their own eyes…”

- she is becoming more like Ruth by the minute…finding her hope in a God who provides…

- if God does not show up and bless and honor His Word, this entire plan could become an absolute nightmare…

- so she knew who Boaz was, from a biblical perspective – he’s our kinsmen…

b. She believed it was appropriate for Ruth to conclude her time of mourning.

- Ruth 3:3 - Wash yourself therefore, and anoint yourself and put on your best clothes…

- now some writers have suggested that there is something sexual here…

- that would do incredible violence to this text because of everything we know about both Ruth and Boaz’s character…we’ll say more about that later…

- this has nothing to do with…”try to make yourself look really hot”…

- the best parallel passage to this is II Samuel 12 where David concludes the period of mourning for his deceased son…

- in Bible times, while your mourning, you would not bathe, at least not as regularly…you would wear certain kinds of garments…you were mourning…

- and you may recall in 2 Samuel 12:20 - So David arose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he came into the house of the Lord and worshiped...

- the point is – the formal time of mourning for her deceased husband [who of course would have been Naomi’s son] was concluding…

- the fact that Naomi was the one who made that suggestion, and Ruth waited until her mother-in-law would be comfortable that that time had come is beautifully touching…that’s why when people try to make this text something it’s not, they miss some very wonderful and important lessons…

c. She knew what Boaz would be doing.

- Ruth 3:2 – Behold, he winnows barley at the threshing floor tonight…

- the threshing floor would have been a large piece of rock probably at the top of a hill that would take advantage of the afternoon breezes…that’s why they did this kind of work in the late afternoon and evening…

- then they would sleep there to protect the grain from being stolen before it could be transported…

- and remember, they had just been through a famine…this would have been a very happy and important time for them…

d. She knew that Ruth had to take the next step.

- Ruth 3:4 - It shall be when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies, and you shall go and uncover his feet and lie down; then he will tell you what you shall do.

- Naomi had this planned out to a tee…

- but the $100 question is – why not just wait for Boaz to approach Ruth?...if they’re finding their hope in a God who provides, why just passively wait?...

- for a lot of reasons…

1. They didn’t have to…there were nothing unbiblical in what they were doing…a bit unconventional, yea…a bit risky---you better believe it [we’ll talk about that in a moment]…but not wrong…so they’ didn’t have to wait…

2. It is highly unlikely that Boaz would have ever acted in this situation…

a. out of respect for Ruth’s grief…it would have insensitive to Ruth, and potentially offensive to the memory of her deceased husband if Boaz was the one who suggested the time of mourning should be concluded…

b. because Boaz was a significantly older man…that point becomes part of this text…now he wasn’t some feeble guy---remember he had just worked all day and well into the evening…but it probably would have been presumptuous for a man his age to assume Ruth would have any interest in him…

c. and as we learn later in the text – while it’s true that he was a relative – what Ruth nor Naomi did not know but apparently Boaz did – was that there was a man who was even a closer relative than him…and Boaz has already proven him to be an extremely honorable man…

 

- so here’s the whole point – somebody had to act…and if it was unlikely or unreasonable for Boaz to be the one acting, then maybe it was time for the ladies to do a little something…

- now, switch perspectives…let’s say you’re Ruth…and you’ve just heard this plan…how would you respond?...

B. Ruth’s willingness

- 3:5 - …all that you say I will do.

- which is absolutely amazing for 100 reasons, including its incredible brevity…

- this plan makes sense because it is rooted in hesed…faithfulness, covenant loyalty…fidelity to the Word of God…

- this could potentially result in her husband’s name being perpetuated and Naomi’s future being protected along with her own…

- let’s not simply do that which is right in our own eyes…let’s take steps that only make sense if God’s Word is really true and He’s able to provide the way He’s promised to over and over in His Word…

- all that you say, I will do…

- and friends, some of us would achieve better results if we talked less and acted more…

- Sacha and Anna understood that when they initiated the request to come here to be part of the seminary – and many of us would say we’re really glad they did…

- and one of the questions we all have to face this morning is, are you finding hope in a God who provides because you’re embracing the adventure of doing your part…

 

C. This principle is illustrated in many places in Scripture.

1. Caleb – I want that mountain! -- Joshua 14:10-12 – Joshua 14:10-12 - Behold, I am eighty-five years old today. I am still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me; as my strength was then, so my strength is now, for war and for going out and coming in. Now then, give me this mountain about which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day that Anakim were there, with great fortified cities; perhaps the Lord will be with me, and I will drive them out as the Lord has spoken.

2. David – I want to build a house for God -- 2 Samuel 7:1-2 - Now it came about when the king lived in his house, and the Lord had given him rest on every side from all his enemies,that the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells within tent curtains.”

3. Paul – Let’s go visit the churches -- Acts 15:36 - After some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.”

 

- the point here is…

D. There is a significant different between “passive trust” and “participatory trust.”

 

- see, here’s the question before the house – when’s the last time you demonstrated that you were so committed to finding hope in a God who provides that you initiated steps that would only make sense if He really is who He says He is?...

- the longer I’m a pastor, the more I’m convinced that a key ministry skill for all God’s people to develop is the matter of initiative…

- having your eyes open to the needs and opportunities around you and being willing to do your part in seizing the opportunity that God has placed before you…

- you should be asking yourself that question every day – in your home, in your neighborhood, at work, as you read the paper – what are the opportunities here?...

- some of God’s people can be incredibly slow on the uptake…for some of us it’s almost as if God would have to open the door, take it off its hinges, and bang us on the head with it before we’d be ready/willing to act…

- if you really believe that God will provide…you’re going to be pushing on a few doors yourself…

II. Finding Hope in the Provision of God is an Adventure Because You Have to Take Risks.

A. That is the central theme of this text.

- we really miss the point of this passage unless we understand the incredible gamble these women are taking…

- this could have backfired in a way that would have brought shame and reproach on Ruth or Naomi or both…and the principle is…

B. Doing so is not a lack of faith, but a proof of it.

- Naomi is making up for lost time…

- and that’s one of the reasons there’s so much hope in this book…

- she went from being bitter to being adventurous in a relatively short period of time.

C. This is equally true of New Testament believers. [and perhaps even more so]

- you remember the parable of the talents in the NT…

- one guy is given 5 talents, the other 2, the other one…

- and the first two guys were faithful with what they had been given…how?...

- Matthew 25:16 - Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents.

- the word traded means “invested” – was willing to take a measure of risk with what had been entrusted to him…he put it back out on the market…

- and do you remember what the final servant did?...out of fear and uncertainty, he hid his talent in the ground…and when the master returned, did you remember what the master said about him?...that he was wicked and lazy…because he did not initiate…he didn’t do his part like good stewards do…

- that is not biblical trust…

 

- are your wheels turning right now?....do you need a good dose of Naomism? (at least chapter 3 brand Naomism)?...

1. maybe you have a person in your life who doesn’t know the Lord…and you’ve never spoken to them?...

-  well, I’m, just waiting for the right time…really, and when’s that going to be?...today seems like a good time…

2. Maybe you are odds with another person in your life – you’re not talking --- well, I’ll ask forgiveness as soon as he does…I’m not placing the call, I’m not taking the risk…

- where’s the hope in that?...

3. Some here have spiritual gifts given for the edification of the body of Christ here and those gifts are absolutely dying on the vine…

- well, if someone asks me to serve, I will…

- why don’t you go find a pastor or a deacon after this service and knock them over with an aggressive request to get busy serving right away?...[let’s skip the getting dressed up and pulling up their garment thing – but maybe it’s time for some initiative and some risk]…

4. What about those who have not yet trusted Christ?...[develop the gospel and the importance of coming to Christ while you can…]

 

III. Finding Hope in the Provision of God is an Adventure Because It Will Test Your Reputation and Your Obedience

- this plan would have never worked unless both Ruth and Boaz had prepared themselves, and proven themselves spiritually in advance….

 

A. Boaz had proven himself to be trustworthy.

 

- Ruth 3:4 - It shall be when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies, and you shall go and uncover his feet and lie down; then he will tell you what you shall do.

 

- think about how outrageous that counsel would have been unless it involved anyone but a man like Boaz who had proven his (hesed), faithfulness…

 

B. Ruth had proven her godly character as well.

 

- Ruth 3:10-11 - Then he said, may you be blessed of the Lord, my daughter. You have shown your last kindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich. Now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence.

 

- “your first (hesed) kindness” – that is, your commitment to the mother of your deceased husband

- “your last kindness” – that is your willingness to marry an elderly man, instead of the young men, poor or rich, because of your desire to perpetuate your husband’s family line, and in so doing be an instrument of blessing to your mother in law as well as yourself and to me…

 

- and one of reasons Boaz was able to see God’s hand in all of this was because Ruth’s had already earned the reputation in her new town as being a “woman of excellence…”

- the exact same word as Proverbs 31:10 - An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.

- develop – the reason this is so important is because often times in risk, you are flying fairly close to the fire…and you have to be sure that you have developed the kind of spiritual strength personally,

- so that you have earned a platform of credibility when those ministry opportunities come along…

- and so that you can compassionately minister to others who might be caught in sin without going down yourself…

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video