The Provision of Hope

Steve Viars September 13, 2009 Ruth 2:14-23

 

- Have you ever been in a situation where not only did God bless you, but He blessed you in abundant ways that you would have hardly dreamed possible?...

- I imagine we could have a good time this morning just going around the room and sharing different ways that has occurred in the lives of people here…

- our God is a God of abundance…

- I kid around from time to time about my experience as a pool builder, but that job for me was a clear evidence of God blessing abundantly…

- I came to the belief that the Lord may want me to be a pastor as a senior in high school…

- so if you asked me when I graduated from high school where I was heading vocationally, being a pastor would have been the answer…

- and all of my educational choices [along with a lot of other decisions] were made with that goal in mind…

- the challenge was [and still is] that ministry training is expensive…

- and my dad was a good man in many ways, but he was not particularly in favor of me going off to Bible College…so for the most part I was going to responsible to pay for it…

- at the time, I had a job making minimum wage which had been a blessing going through high school…but there was no way I could earn enough to pay for a year of college…so I wasn’t really sure where the money was going to come from…

- one evening I received a call at work…from a guy I barely knew saying that he worked for a pool company that needed laborers, and that I could have the job if I willing to start the next day…and that the crew was working in Illinois so I would have to meet the owner of the business at one of their stores the next morning and he would drive me to the jobsite…

- so I called my manager and told him what was up, and he said this might be just what I needed (he was aware of my college plans) and he said – go try it for a few days---if it doesn’t work out you can go back to your job here…

- so I thanked him and thought – this is going to work out well…

- so the next morning I went up to this pool store in Illinois…and I made sure I was early…

- and the only people there were the ones who worked inside the store…and they had no idea of what I was talking about…

- they didn’t know if/when the owner might be coming in…of course it hadn’t dawned on me to get the owner’s name…I didn’t know they had several stores in the Chicago area…

- so they basically said – if you want to sit over there, fine…he might be here…he might not…

- lunchtime came and went…nothing…

- finally, early in the afternoon, an elderly Jewish man showed up, who turned out to be the owner…his name was Al Poll, and let’s just say that he wasn’t the most organized fellow in the world…

- but he did remember that he was supposed to meet someone there and take me out to the jobsite…

- so I left my car there and jumped in his Cadillac and away we went…

- he started telling me his story and then he asked me about mine…I wasn’t sure if explaining to this man that I was planning to be a pastor was such a great idea or not…but I’m not a poker player, so I just told him the whole story… and he at least seemed mildly interested in that…

- we got to the jobsite and learned real fast what hard work was like…

- and I knew nothing about construction…like when you are dumping a load of concrete from a wheelbarrow, you need to hold back on the handles because it often sticks to wheelbarrow…

- which is why the first time I tried to dump it, the concrete, the wheelbarrow, and I ended up in the pool…

- but we worked until late in the night and I thought, OK, at least I have a job…no one said anything about being paid, but I worked…

- the next day was Saturday, and I met the crew foreman, a man named Clyde, at the next job he had told me about the previous night…and we were the only two people there…

- so I asked him about the other two guys and he said – well, one usually gets pretty drunk on Friday nights so he generally doesn’t make it on Saturdays, and the other guy is out on work release, so he has to stay in jail on weekends…

- so that day, I was going to mix the concrete up on the deck with a paddle mixer and the foreman, who was a fairly old guy, was going to finish the entire pool bottom by himself…

- well, I saw pretty quickly that I could mix it a lot faster than he could finish it…

- so when I got far enough ahead of him, I asked if I could come down and help him trowel it out…his reaction gave me the impression that he’d never had an employee ask to do extra work before…so he got me a set of trowels and knee-pads and showed me what to do…

- and I’d help him trowel the concrete and then when we needed more I’d jump up on the deck and mix up enough for both of us…

- I wasn’t trying to impress anybody – that just seemed like the logical thing to do…

- we were just about done, when I heard someone’s voice up on the deck…and it was the owner of the company…I hadn’t thought we’d see him again, certainly not on a Saturday…

- and he was curious about what I was doing down in the hole…

- so Clyde said – and I’ll spare you some of the colorful language Clyde inserted in practically every sentence I ever heard him utter, good or bad…the “most surprisingly” thing I ever saw, he wanted to learn how to trowel so he could help me down here…

- the boss hung around, which I also thought was odd, until we finished the job and installed the liner…and as we were starting to fill the pool with water, he asked if he could talk to me…

- he said, you told me that you’re going to need about $7000 to pay for school next year, right?...[that’s about what a year of college cost back in 1978]…

- he said – here’s what I’d like to do – I’ll pay you $5 an hour (which was good money in those days), and he said – you can work as many hours as you want…and if you stick with us all summer, I’ll give you a $1000 bonus to help you with your school bill…

- in two days I went from being a guy who had no idea how he was going to pay his school bill, to having a great shot at doing so, within two days…

- and the lesson that came screaming out of the bottom of that pool was --- Not only can God provide, God can provide in abundance…

- and you don’t even have to take my word for it…you can take it from the story of a young woman from the country of Moab…

- with that in mind, please open your Bible to the book of Ruth chapter 2, page 200 of the Bible under the chair in front of you…

- this fall we’re doing a study entitled Finding Hope in a God Who Provides

- this is a verse by verse study of the book of Ruth…

- we understand that these are challenging days for many people…it’s easy to become discouraged, or frustrated, or depressed…these are the worst economic conditions that some people who will hear this message have ever experienced…

- But that is one of the reasons God has given us so many stories in the Bible, stories of people like Ruth…because as the apostle Paul would later explain…

- 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.

- see, it really is possible to find hope in a God who provides…

- now, here’s where we are in the story line…

- this story transpires in the days when the judges governed…a sad period in the history of Israel which is 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…

- your best hope, according to verse 9, is to find a man, a new husband, and at this point it doesn’t matter what he believes…any old man will do…that’s where you should focus your hope…because the Lord has afflicted me, He’s deserted me…you’re on your own…

- so one of the daughters in law takes her up on her suggestion…and heads back to Moab…

- but the remaining daughter in law, a young Moabite named Ruth, makes a commitment to Naomi…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.

- she’s the polar opposite of the unfaithful people of Israel at the time who are doing what was right in their own eyes…

- Ruth says – I want the God of Israel to be my God – and I want to be faithful to His Word even when I can’t see how it’s all going to turn out…He’s capable of being faithful to me, I choose to be faithful to Him..

- Regrettably, Naomi chooses the path of bitterness…believing that God can’t or won’t provide…

 - so when they got to Bethlehem the women of the city asked..isn’t this Naomi…she replies… Ruth 1:20-21 - She said to them, “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?”

- last week we saw that 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…

- let’s pick up the story in verse 14 of chapter 2…and learn more about The Provision of Hope…does God just give His people a little, or does He give them a lot?...

- read Ruth 2:14—23…

 

- so we’re talking about the provision of hope, and with the time we have remaining, let’s think about 3 lessons about the way God provides.

 

I. God is Capable of Meeting Your Needs in Amazing and Abundant Ways.

- that lesson is bubbling up all over this passage…for example, even in how…

A. Boaz treated Ruth with dignity and respect.

- see, it’s not only about the material provision, although that is astounding…but life for a woman in that culture, who was a foreigner, and who was poor…could be very frightening and difficult…

1. He invites her to eat with the rest of the team – v. 14

- Ruth 2:14 - At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here, that you may eat of the bread and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar.” So she sat beside the reapers…

- Ruth was social outcast, yet Boaz is treating her almost like she’s family…the significance of that statement will eventually be revealed…but as one writer says to help us picture how astounding this was…

- “He welcomes her to the intimacy of the noon meal…” (K. Lawson Younger, NIV Application Commentary, p. 446).

2. He serves her lunch.

- v. 14b – and he served her roasted grain…

- it’s not – we want you to eat with us so you can serve us and then do the dishes…

- he’s serving her…and that treatment continues…

3. He instructs the reapers to let her glean among the sheaves, and not to insult her.

- Ruth 2:15 - When she rose to glean, Boaz commanded his servants, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not insult her.

- this wasn’t just about filling her stomach…this was about concern for her heart…

- treat her with dignity—do not insult her…

- he made that statement again in the very next verse…

- Ruth 2:16 - …do not rebuke her.

- you can imagine how all of this must have impacted Ruth’s heart and soul…I trusted God to provide, and I am being treated in ways I would have never imagined…I can hardly believe my ears…

- that’s what happens when people choose to trust God and obey his Word, instead of doing that which is right in their own eyes…

- Deuteronomy 10:17-19 - For the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

 

- please turn this around for a moment and think about it from the perspective of being used of God to be part of His provision in their life…

- I want to thank Patti and John Childes, and Julie and Larry Cole, along with a whole host of people who work with them to oversee our food pantry and clothing closet ministry…

- it is not just that they have things well organized – but that they treat men and women in need with a sense of dignity and grace that is worthy of the name Christian…

- that is very “Boaz like”…and by the way, tonight is church family night which is when we traditionally try to restock our food pantry and clothing closet and I would encourage you to be sure to pick up some canned goods, or just be prepared to give a special offering to help them…there are also some volunteer opportunities I am sure they would be happy to communicate with you about…

 

- one other observation before we go further in this text…Ruth is receiving a lesson here in what godly relationships are supposed to sound like, and be like, and feel like…

- it’s the shalom/peace/fulfillment that is offered to the people of God in contrast to the emptiness and heartache that so often marks relationships because of sin…

- that’s something else around here for which I’m very thankful…the Lord has blessed us with a spirit of unity and Christian love that is very delightful…

- Psalm 133:1 - Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!

- I was telling our deacons about a call I received from a pastor in another state whose church was just coming apart because of gossip, and pettiness, and division…

- I was actually driving when I took the call so it was a little hard to understand what was occurring at first and then I realized I was having trouble hearing because this man was weeping over what was occurring in the lives of people he had faithfully shepherded for so long…

- we talked a while, and then I prayed with him, and after hanging up thought – Lord, please help us not to take the unity you have blessed us with for granted…that is part of God’s abundant provision…but if it is not recognized and preserved, it can easily be lost…

- Ephesians 4:3 - being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

 

- in addition to the abundantly gracious treatment Ruth received, there was also the clear emphasis on material abundance…

B. God provided more than Ruth needed.

1. At lunch.

- Ruth 2:14b - and he served her roasted grain, and she ate and was satisfied and had some left.

- [cf. the Jimmy Dean sausage commercial where the moon is supposed to be full but he didn’t have a good breakfast, so the sun cooks him up a Jimmy Dean sausage biscuit and then offers him another one and the moon says – no, I’m full] – we all know that feeling, I couldn’t eat another bite…how long do you think it’s been since Ruth knew what that feeling was like?

 

2. In the amount she gleaned

- Ruth 2:17 - So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley.

- the issue of weights and measurements in Bible times is a study in and of itself, so no one can be sure how much this was…but even by conservative estimates, the obvious point that is being made is – this was an incredible amount of processed barley…somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-40 pounds…

- she probably would have struggled to get this much home…

- in Bible times, the average a male day worker was required to process was about 2 pounds…so this was an enormous amount of grain…

- and when you do the math, since the end of the text says that she was allowed to continue to glean for 7 weeks --- if she averaged this much…that would translate into enough barley for she and Naomi for at least 8 months…and if you accept the larger estimates, more than enough for the next year…

- see, that’s the provision of hope…not only does God provide, He often provides with abundance…

C. Equally true for us today.

- Luke 6:38 - Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.

- Psalm 37:25 - I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread.

 

- now, let me ask you two questions at this point:

1. Could you give examples from your life about how God has blessed you, in abundance?...

- everyone here ought to be able to give at least one example…

-- Ephesians 3:14-19 – For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name,that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man,so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

2. Are you experiencing a time of emptiness in some way in your life right now?...

- have you allowed that to make you bitter like Naomi…or faithful like Ruth…

- remember, the day before the one we’re studying, Ruth had no idea how/when/if all of this was going to transpire…but in the meantime, she chose to believe in a God who provides, and in return, she experienced God’s abundance…

 

II. God’s People Glorify Him When They Recognize and Rejoice in His Faithfulness.

- now, it’s quitting time…and it’s time for her to go home to see Naomi her mother-in-law…

- and the irony of what is about to unfold is that each of them knows more than the other, but it will take some time for everybody to put the pieces together…

- now it’s very important to see that a change is about to come over Naomi…sure she could have avoided bitterness before…but the good news is, even if you’ve allowed yourself to become a bitter person for all the reasons we studied a couple of weeks ago…you don’t have to stay there…

- and what we see in this passage is a double blessing, from the lips of Naomi, as she comes to understand what it is that Ruth is reporting…

- first is her response to the immediate provision…

A. In His immediate provision.

1. Ruth’s leftover lunch.

- it is extremely touching that Ruth was thoughtful enough to bring part of her lunch home to her mother-in-law…

- and that might not sound like much to you, but after having been through a famine, you have to know that spoke volumes to Naomi’s heart…

2. The incredible amount of grain Ruth brought home.

- Ruth doesn’t even get far into her story before Naomi says…

- Ruth 2:19 - Her mother-in-law then said to her, “Where did you glean today and where did you work? May he who took notice of you be blessed.”

- now we have to connect that back to verse 2, when Ruth said when she was asking permission to go…Ruth 2:2 - And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after one in whose sight I may find favor.”

- we said that the point of that was – even though there was a clear provision in the OT to allow gleaning on the part of those who were poor, so many of God’s so-called people were ignoring His Word – doing that which was right in their own eyes because they long ago decided that could not place their hope in His provision – so they opted for placing their hope in their own disobedience and selfishness…so Ruth had no idea if any Jewish landowner would actually show her favor…

- as soon as Naomi saw this amount of grain – she put two and two together – someone has shown favor to you – and my prayer is that he’ll be blessed…

- do you sense the warming of an ice cold heart?...and sure it would have been better if it had happened before…

- but tardy obedience and faith is better than no obedience and faith at all…

- but the writer leaves the best for last…do you see the middle of verse 19…

- Ruth 2:19 - …So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, “The name of the man with whom I worked today is Boaz.”

- that’s the last detail Ruth gives – because she has no idea how significant that part of the story is…oh and by the way, his name is Boaz…

- and you can imagine Naomi practically falling off her stool…his name is what?...

- And now there’s a second blessing…

- Ruth 2:20 - Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed of the Lord who has not withdrawn his kindness to the living and to the dead.” Again Naomi said to her, “The man is our relative, he is one of our closest relatives.”

- finally Naomi’s eyes are opening to what has been transpiring…

- we’ll talk more in subsequent weeks about the significance of Boaz being related to Naomi’s husband Elimelech---in that culture that meant he was in a position to be their kinsman redeemer…

- but a key interpretative decision has to be made here…does the phrase “who has not withdrawn his kindness from the living and the dead” refer to the word “Lord”, or to the phrase “may he be blessed of the Lord” (referring then to Boaz)…

- even in Hebrew, the phrase is ambiguous, and perhaps purposely so…

- but I believe Naomi is especially referring to the Lord at this point, because this is another use of this great word hesed…the Lord has not withdrawn His hesed from the living or the dead…

- we’ll see in future weeks how even the dead could be involved in this…but at this point, let’s just savor the moment…

- God is being glorified as Naomi recognizes and rejoices in the (hesed) faithfulness of her God…

- see, she was wrong…the Lord had not brought her back empty…the Lord had not deserted her…the Lord was orchestrating these details to be a source of provision for her that was nothing short of abundant…
 

- my wife and I have seen this played out over and over again as we’ve tried to serve the Lord and walk with him…

- develop – housing situation in NJ…going there knowing my starting salary was $24K…was also going to be doing doctoral work and trying to work full time…school was expensive, so I told my friends there to find us the cheapest apartment they could…

- they succeeded…but the previous tenants had been unwilling to pay or move out…so they trashed the apartment on the way out…when we got there it was in such a state of disrepair, you could look up through a hole in the bathroom to the bathroom of the people on the next floor…

- [develop – next apartment – financial situation – the “treat” was buying a loaf of cinnamon bread at Mastoris – if we had enough change]

- then graduated and Pastor Goode asked us to join the staff – moved here fully believing we would never be able to own a house…and were OK with that…

- [develop the way people helped us build our home – a constant reminder of exactly what we’re studying today – not only can God provide, He can provide with abundance…]

- question this am is – do you believe that?...

 

- one last point – where does this story end at chapter 2?...the answer is, stalled…

 

III. There is a Significant Difference between Providing, and Providing Immediately.

 

- you read about Boaz on day 1, and then there’s no other mention…

- Ruth 2:23 - So she stayed close by the maids of Boaz in order to glean until the end of the barley harvest and the wheat harvest. And she lived with her mother-in-law.

 

- maybe God forgot about them?....

- maybe it was just time for them to do something that is very hard for all of us…to wait…

- Psalm 27:14 - Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.

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