The Faithfulness of Hope

Steve Viars September 27, 2009 Ruth 3:14-18

 

- One of the most important things our church family does each fall is the election of our deacons…we are an independent church which is congregationally governed…

- that means that there is no hierarchy or denominational authority outside of our own church family…

- that’s not just because we think it’s a wise way to function, or because it fits nicely with the fierce independence of the American sprit…

- we think that approach most closely follows the pattern of church government in the New Testament…

- from a theological perspective, that’s called “the autonomy of the local church”…we are self-governing…that means that our church family determines our confession of faith, or what we believe…the congregation establishes our constitution, how we’re organized…

- the same is true for our church covenant, what we agree to be and to do as members…

- this applies to our finances…our property and buildings are owned by our church family…

- no one outside of us determines our budget…we decide the kind of missionaries we support…

- in addition to being consistent with Scripture, we believe that approach simplifies the accomplishment of our mission…

- some churches are in denominations where the congregation believes one thing, and the denominational leaders decide to believe something else…then what do you do?...

- or some authority group in another part of the country decides who your next pastor is going to be…

- some churches are in the position of being forced to support missionaries who will be teaching ideas in other countries that they believe are doctrinally incorrect…

- and if you try to leave the denomination, you’re told that you can do so, but you can’t take the building and property with you…

- the deeds belong to the denomination, even though generally speaking, the church family gave the money…

- so for a lot of different reasons, we believe in and practice the autonomy of the local church, the notion that congregations should be self-governing…

- that brings with it many attendant blessings, but also a number of significant responsibilities…including something we do every fall, the election of our deacons…

- Especially as our church has gotten larger and more complex, I believe the deacon’s election process at is one of the most significant ways you can exercise influence in the direction of our church…

- currently we have 30 deacons, and because of church growth, we’ll be adding 3 this fall for a total of 33…

- they serve staggered 3 year terms, so on any given year, we will be electing, or reelecting 11 men to serve our church family in this important way…

- we’ve just recently completed one of the critical steps in that process, when we made lists of all the men in our church, 18 years or older available, and asked you to make suggestions of who you would like to see considered for this position…

- we also encouraged you to make that determination on the basis of the Scriptural qualifications for deacons…outlined in Acts 6 and I Timothy 3…

- so my assumption is that you have recently taken the time to review those qualifications because if we want the privilege of being self-governing, we have to accept the responsibilities…

- now here’s my question…if you were going to summarize what God’s Word especially emphasizes about the qualifications of our leaders, how would you do it?...

- one of the key answers to that question is the word “faithfulness…”

- it’s not whoever happens to be the president of the bank, or the individual with the most money, or the person who’s really popular or outgoing, or can hit a three-point shot under pressure…

- it has to do with the man’s character, especially in his home, and in the community…

- he has to be a faithful man…

- I believe that our church has done an especially good job at fulfilling this responsibility…

- we have an outstanding group of deacons…you have taken this process seriously…

- and furthermore, what’s also amazing is that we have the luxury of having an abundance of men who meet the biblical qualifications…many more than the number of positions that need to be filled…

- here’s the next question…why do you believe God designed it that way?...that, of everything that could have been emphasized, faithfulness in character is the key issue?

- there’s at least 2 answers…

 

1. Because that in turn reflects the faithfulness of our God…

- we are all supposed to glorify God…that is, give others the right opinion of Him…

- but that has to be especially true of the church’s leaders…

- so if faithfulness is one of God’s central attributes, than it has to be one of the central qualifications of the leaders of Christ’s church…

2. That gives the church family great reason to worship, and pray, and serve, and give with confidence and hope…

- our ultimate trust is in God, not man…

- but faithful people are easier to follow…

- they’re easier to trust…

- there’s a direct correlation between a leader’s faithfulness and a followers hope…

 

- in fact, that’s exactly what we’re going to study this morning…The Faithfulness of Hope

- with that in mind, please open your Bible to Ruth chapter 3, page 200 of the front 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 we’re starting to land the plane on this series…

- Pastor Dutton will be speaking next Sunday morning because I have to be out of town…

- but then we’ll take the next two Sundays to complete our study before we move into Stewardship Month – we’ll explain all of that later…

- here’s the essential facts we need to keep in mind to be prepared to understand what we’re going to study at the end of chapter 3…

- the historical setting for this book is the days of the Judges…which is sadly summarized in Scripture as…Judges 21:25 - In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

- so we have to think about the three primary characters, Ruth, her mother-in-law Naomi, and a wealthy landowner named Boaz through that particular grid…

- are they as individuals what Israel was like as a nation, or have they let God help them become something different?...or did they start in one condition and end up in another?

- now please keep in mind, whenever we think about OT narratives, or stories…that they are recorded in Scripture for a reason…Romans 15:4 - For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

- but also please remember this…not only is that true for us…it would have also been true for the original readers of the book…

- as they looked at the sadness and emptiness that resulted from acting as if God didn’t even exist… or wasn’t capable of providing for them or keeping His promises to them, and therefore the logical conclusion was to just do that which was right in their own eyes…

- they could then read a book like Ruth and conclude…it doesn’t have to be this way…I can let God help me be different than the culture around me…it really is possible to Finding Hope in a God Who Provides

- here’s the basic story line…a woman named Naomi, her husband Elimelech, and their two sons leave Bethlehem and go to the country 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 return there…but at some point Naomi sits down with her daughters in law and says…you should go back to Moab, to be with your people, and your gods…

- in other words, the God of the Bible is not characterized by hesed, covenant loyalty or faithfulness – He’s deserted me and can’t provide for us…so everybody just needs to do 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 chapter 2, 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 God directs her to the fields of a man named Boaz, who was actually a relative of her deceased father-in-law…and this man treated her with abundant kindness and dignity…

- when Ruth came home with an incredible amount of grain, and even some leftovers from the lunch Boaz had served her for her mother-in-law, Naomi’s bitter heart began to melt…

- and she made up for lost time in chapter three by initiating a plan that could have only worked if the God of Israel chose to honor His Word…- let’s reread what she did and then move into our verses for this am…read Ruth chapter 3…

 

- we’re talking this morning about The Faithfulness of Hope…and with the time we have remaining, let’s look at these last 5 verses in chapter 3 and find 3 ways faithful people bless others and build hope.

I. Protection

One of the clear emphases is that…

A. Boaz took specific steps to protect Ruth’s reputation.

- as we pointed out last week…Ruth and Naomi were taking an incredible risk here…

- there was no way to know for sure how Boaz might react to what was clearly a proposal of marriage…

- Ruth 3:9 - …I am Ruth your maid. So spread your covering over your maid, for you are a close relative.

- and we studied last Sunday how that all of this fit into their culture and why for a variety of reasons it would not have been Boaz’s move to make…but the words that come screaming out of that portion of the story are “initiative” and “risk”…there’s no way around that…

- and you have to believe that Ruth was so relieved when Boaz said early that morning while it was still dark…Ruth 3:14 - …“Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.”

- it’s my job to protect her reputation…

- one commentator said…”Boaz could have treated her as Moabite trash, scavenging in the garbage cans of Israel, and then corrupting the people with her whorish behavior, but with the true hesed of his own, he sees her as a woman equal in status and character to himself” (D. I. Block, Judges, Ruth, p. 695).

- and that is a key point here – what made Ruth and Naomi’s’ steps easier to take was Boaz’s proven faithfulness…

- they couldn’t say with absolute assurance what would happen because nobody knows the future…

- but on the other hand…if there was anyone who would seriously consider his biblical responsibilities in this matter…it was our man Boaz…

- maybe everybody else was doing that which was right in their own eyes…but Boaz was trying to live by what was right in God’s eyes…

 

- of course the key question is – how did he develop that kind of faithfulness and dependability…I hope we would all say, I want to be like that…

- there’s a concept that’s been developing here that can help us see what might have motivated Boaz to want to protect Ruth…

B. He understood and fulfilled his responsibility to be “the refuge of God’s wings” in Ruth’s life.

- you might say, what do you mean by that?...

- do you remember what Boaz said to Ruth at their first meeting…

- Ruth 2:12 - May the Lord reward your work, and your wages be full from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.

- it’s important to connect that to what we just read a moment ago…

- Ruth 3:9 - …spread your covering over your maid, for you are a close relative.

- one writer said it this way, “In Boaz’s mind this triggers a memory, recalling to him his previous words, ‘…under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.’  Once this correspondence has been made, the full meaning and implications of his previous words flood in upon him…In a moment the process of understanding in completed.  Everything culminates and merges in this image of ingathering: the wings of the Lord sweeping in to Himself the people, the arms of Boaz gathering in to himself the maiden Ruth, the arms of the young men drawing into the barns the grain.  It is a moment of imaginative splendor and depth” (Rauber, D. “Literary Values in the Bible: The Book of Ruth”, JBL 89, 1970, p. 33.)

- now whether you buy all of that or not…the central point is very clear…yes, God offers the possibility of having a relationship with Him where we feel like we are sheltered underneath His wings…but He often uses people as instruments of that protection…

- that is exactly the way Boaz is functioning in this text…an instrument of God’s protection in Ruth’s life…and delighted to be carrying out that faithful role on behalf of their faithful God…

- it’s just like our deacons – there’s an understanding and appreciation that our lives are to be a reflection of the character of God…and the more you value that…and focus on that…the more likely you are to develop that attribute of faithfulness…

- now’ let’s switch that over to you and me…are there ways that God wants us to provide protection for one another?...to be His wings of protection in the lives of those around us?...

C. Husbands.

- 1 Peter 3:7 - Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

- faithful husbands are on the lookout for ways they can protect their wives…

- and many of you wives have husbands who are a source of strength, and protection, and trustworthiness…I hope you thank your husband if that’s the case…

- regrettably some husbands are the exact opposite…

- instead of providing protection, and faithfulness and in so doing, represent God and His comforting wings…they bring anger, and threats, and instability into the marriage and the home…

- Proverbs 25:28 - A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.

- James 1:19-20 - Thisyou know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

- husbands – are you like Boaz?...do you provide faithful protection to your wife?...or do you really just do that which is right in your own eyes?

D. Wives

- Ephesians 5:33 - …the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

- that includes the impact of your words on his reputation…

- we ought to practice the 4P principle – presenting your partner perfect in public…

- and that doesn’t mean we lie…but there are few things worse than a spouse being the polar opposite of what we’re seeing in this text between Ruth and Boaz…

- if you have a problem with your spouse, speak to him…if he won’t listen and it’s truly a biblical issue, you might have to get some leaders of the church involved…but to sit around and gossip about your husband, or tear him down behind his back, or to his face in front of others, especially the children…is a significant lapse of faithfulness…

- what if God spoke about you the way you speak about your husband?...

E. For children.

- Ephesians 6:2 – Honor your father and mother(which is the first commandment with a promise),

- I’m not talking about hiding things that are wrong, or ignoring problems that have to be solved…

- but this culture has lost the concept of filial piety…and some kids have absolutely no trouble dissing their parents in front of whoever might be willing to listen…

 

F. For friends.

- Proverbs 27:17 - Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

- are you a source of spiritual protection for your friends?...

-if they come under your influence, the shelter of your wings, are they likely to be more or less godly as a result?...

- for those of you who are dating, are you concerned about the testimony of that person?...are you concerned about their purity…

- let me just mention something that I’m sure will be controversial…I’m leaving for CA this afternoon so feel free to start a public demonstration at the church house while I’m gone…

- what about the practice of people who are dating being at one another’s apartments alone?...I’m not sure that’s such a smart idea…it’s a tremendous source of temptation, and if nothing else, it doesn’t go very far in protecting that person’s reputation…

- Boaz was a faithful man…and as a result, what Ruth received from that relationship in part was protection?...

- what are the people in your life receiving from being under the shelter of your wings?...

 

II. Provision

A. Boaz gave Ruth another significant amount of grain.

- Ruth 3:15 - Again he said, “Give me the cloak that is on you and hold it.” So she held it, and he measured six measures of barley and laid it on her.

- I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that the issue of measures and standards in Bible times isn’t something we can be dogmatic about…

- but there’s no question that it was a lot of grain…they used her outer cloak as a way to try to carry it all home…

- but what’s amazing is…

 

B. The explanation of the gift.

- please note very carefully what happened when Ruth returned home…

- Ruth 3:16 - When she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “How did it go, my daughter?” And she told her all that the man had done for her.

- now, are you imagining all of this?...

- you wonder if Naomi slept a wink that night…and Ruth comes home and tells her the whole story…and practically nothing of what she said is specifically recorded for us…just this summary – “And she told her (Naomi) all that the man had done for her…”

- why is that?...to focus on the one point that is made…

- Ruth 3:17 - She said, “These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said, ‘Do not go to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’ ”

- what was it that Naomi had said to the women of the city?...

- and remember, Ruth was right there…and some words are so powerful and spoken in emotionally charged ways that you practically never forget them…

- Ruth 1:21 - “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?”

- can you imagine what Ruth must have thought when Boaz said…”Don’t go to your mother-in-law empty handed.” 

- Can you imagine what Naomi must have thought when she heard these words?...

- and please tell me – how is Boaz functioning?...as a grand representative of our faithful God…who provides in abundance…

- do you want to hear some good news?...

C. The same is true for our Redeemer today.

- John 10:10 - The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

- think about the consequences of people living as if they could not find their hope in a God who provides…

- simply doing that which is right in their own eyes…

- what is the end result of that road?...

- Proverbs 14:12 - There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.

- James 1:14-15 - But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

 

- and I realize we’ll have people with us today who could say – PV, I know that all too well…doing that which is right in our own eyes will destroy relationships, it will eventually ruin us and everyone around us…

- which is why one of the greatest demonstrations of God’s faithfulness was when…

- Romans 5:8 - But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

- His wasn’t just a provision of barley, it was a provision of blood…[develop the gospel]

 

D. We can model this aspect of God’s character by providing for others.

- Philippians 2:3-4 - Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

 

III. Predictability

A. Naomi knew that Boaz would do his part quickly.

- Ruth 3:18 - Then she said, “Wait, my daughter, until you know how the matter turns out; for the man will not rest until he has settled it today.”

- when Naomi saw the grain, she got the point…

- and you have to wonder if Ruth told Boaz that these steps were Naomi’s idea…

- but either way…once Ruth took the initiative for the reasons we explained last week…there was no problem what a faithful man like Boaz would do next…

 

B. But how do you know when to wait, and when to act?

1. Is this something that God has commanded you to do now?

 

a. Solve problems with others now, before worshipping.

Matthew 5:24 - leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.

 

b. Use your anger to communicate biblically before the sun goes down.

Ephesians 4:26 – Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,

 

c. Trust Christ and Savior and Lord now.

2 Corinthians 6:2 – for He says, at the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.  Behold, now is the acceptable time, behold now is the day of salvation.

 

d. Too many people confuse God’s “commands” with “suggestions” and God’s “now” with “when I feel like getting around to it.”

 

- and obviously the list we just made is representative of many places in Scripture where we are told to obey God right away…

- the principle is, if you are not skilled at doing what He has already commanded, why would He direct you in whether you should or wait in other situations…


2. Have you received counsel?

Proverbs 11:14 - Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.

 

3. Have you done your part?

Ruth 3:18 - Then she said, “Wait, my daughter, until you know how the matter turns out; for the man will not rest until he has settled it today.”

 

4. Should you go into a holding pattern?

Romans 14:23 - But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.

 

C. Your predictability will make it easier for others to wait.

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 they have three children. 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 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