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August 20, 2020 4:00 am
Welcome to Truth for Life. Today, we are continuing uncaught 2020 with another message from the Book of Ruth. Ruth is the tender story of two widows who endured a season of famine and loss. But in the midst of their suffering, they remain devoted to one another and to God. Alistair Begg is teaching from Ruth chapter to.
Well, we've tried to remind one another of, as we've been coming to these studies, is the very humanity of what we have before us, that as with the other sections of the Bible, we're dealing with real men and women in real places in the span of human history, locations that are still present today. In this instance in the town of Bethlehem, which some of you will have visited, and the events that unfold in the Book of Ruth are taking place in the very same fields in which King David or the one who was to become King David would in turn be out looking after the sheep that were under his care, the same fields in which the angels would appear to shepherds in their day, announcing the arrival of the Lord Jesus himself.
And so, having left Moab and come back to the Bethlehem area, what we have is the story of these two widowed women, one, the mother in law of Ruth and Ruth herself.
And when the morning sunlight wakened her to this new day, she probably did what you and I do unless we have slept in. And that is take just a moment to remind ourselves where we are.
And she would have doubtless looked up at the ceiling and said to herself, Oh, yes, that's right. We're now in Bethlehem.
She would have reminded herself as it is routine to do, I think, or maybe it's just me. But I find myself running through a catalog of events that give me stability as I think about who and where I am.
It would have been difficult for her in the infancy of these days to forget the fact that she was bereft of her husband, that she was now a widow. There are circumstances where that she was living with her mother in law and her mother in law was also a widow. She doubtless would have sent herself and I'm a long way from home.
I know I made the decision to leave. I hope I've done the right thing. Here I am. I'm an alien. I live now in a foreign land. However, she would have said, I have made this great declaration to Naomi concerning her faith in God and my desire to trust Naomi's God, I now trust in the God of Abraham, Isaac and of Jacob. And then she must have said to yourself, well, it looks as though my life here is probably going to be quite uneventful. It would seem, judging by what I've seen so far and what I can imagine, that my life is probably going to be fairly ordinary and relatively unexciting. Clearly, this is conjecture on my part, but that would not be a surprising thing if we were to discover when we meet her in heaven that our mind had ruminated along these kind of avenues. And then she would have said, as any sensible person eventually has to say, well, there's no point in lying here thinking like this all morning. I need to get up and get on with the day. And indeed, if I can give you one word of advice, those of you for whom ruminating on trouble is a normal experience, especially in the early hours of the morning, I give you a piece of spiritual advice, and that is get out of your bed and wash your face. That is the best advice I can give you for you to stay lying there longer than is helpful and necessary is liable to put you in the pit of depression. And so she said, well, I better get up. If she had been contemporary with us, she may have got up and had in our mind the words of a relatively familiar hymn.
Fourth, in my name or Lord, I go my daily labors to pursue the only thee resolved to know in all I think and speak and do.
That's a good stanza, incidentally, to begin any day with. I'm not sure we know that hymn, but it is a familiar him to some and it is an important him. Here I am at your day, Lord. I'm about to go into it. I want to do your will today and I am resolved to know only you. In the doing of your will. And so coming down to breakfast, she offers a suggestion to her mother in law. She says, I'm actually going to go out today. If it's OK with you. I'd like to go out into the fields and pick up the leftover grain. She says she's gonna to be looking for somebody, anybody in whose eyes she can find favor. And in prospect of dealing with half of the chapter in one study, I had three headings under which I gather my thoughts. Only one heading will be germane to our issue this evening by the first heading came out of there as to. And it was this.
Let me go and find favor.
Now she says, let me go and gather grain and get behind anybody who knows in whose eyes I find favor. But essentially what she's saying is, let me go out into the fields and see if I can find myself in a favorable position. Let me go and find favor. And then we were going to go to our stand for our second point, which will be sometime in the future, where she asks the question, why have I found such favor? And then we were going to go to verse thirteen, which would be our concluding point, which is sometime also in the future where it reads, May I continue to find favor?
Let me go and find favor. Why have I found favor? Let me continue to find favor.
Well, we only have time for the first of these. I'm sure you'll be greatly relieved to understand that it will be an encouragement to a number of you noticed that in the first verse.
In the first verse, we have this little introduction to Boaz. The narrator the writer introduces us to. Balazs tells us that here Naomi has a relative. The relationship which exists was on the side of her husband, Elimelech. The family for the Israelite was the basic unit of social society. The kinship structure was very, very important. And members of the wider family had obligations to help and to protect and to support the family structure. When things began to cave in. So, for example, for someone such as Naomi, to find herself a widow at this point in our life would mean that if there were people in the wider family structure of who would be able to express care for her, then she might anticipate the same.
And so the writer tells us right at the very beginning, he says that there is a relative around in the area. His name is Boaz. And the link that he has with Naomi is directly through her husband, Elimelech, or her late husband, Elimelech.
So he mentions the relationship that is there. And then he also mentions the resources of this individual, Boaz. We are told in the NIV that he is a man of standing. This means a number of things that can be translated, that he was a wealthy man. It could be translated that he was a man of integrity. It could be translated that he was a strong man, that he was a powerful man, that he was a military man. The word is used in a whole variety of contexts.
Suffice it to say that Boaz was a man of moral, financial and social standing.
He was a man of integrity. He was a man of influence and he was a man of means.
Now, that's what we're told in the first verse. The writer simply says, Now I want you to understand that no, Naomi had a relative. It was on her husband's side. Elimelech and the relative that she had is a chap called Bulos. And this guy belies his integrity, his influence. And he has means. Thus causing any of us in reading this story to say to ourselves, aha, I wonder why he mentions boys. I wonder if Boys is going to play a part later on in the story. I wonder what particular significance he may have in the lives of these women, if any.
And Diverse just sits there and then we go back to the narrative. There's two and Ruth.
The more the s reminding us that she is an alien said to Naomi, I'm going to go out into the fields, if that's OK with you.
If any of you have lived at all in village life in an agricultural community, you will know that a time of harvesting is a wonderful time. I used to make frequent trips in the north of Scotland's, I've told you before, into a very, very rural community that grew various staple's, potatoes and turnips and a variety of things. And we would often arrive in September at the time of the tatty hacking, which actually means the potato picking. And I still have a very, very vivid picture of tractor trailers coming down through the village streets with the very sunburned faces and legs of individuals dangling off the side of the of the trailer. And the fact that this harvesting was taking place impacted the totality of the village structure.
The children did not go to school because of the harvesting. They were allowed to remain from school so that they could help with the harvesting. It was impossible to be in the village and to be uninvolved in the events as they were taking place in something akin to that would have been true here in Bethlehem also. So whether Ruth had conceived of the plan to go into the fields while she was lying on her bed, or whether it was on account of the buzz that was going around the village, whether it was the stirrings of village life, the air being filled with the smell of fresh grain, the sounds of the harvesters leaving for their task, triggering in our mind the thought, well, if everybody is going, perhaps I could go. We're not told.
But we do know that she requests of her mother in law that she might go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain. Now we look at that may say to ourselves, I wonder where that comes from. And we need a knowledge of the Old Testament law. You can read this for your homework in Leviticus 19, Leviticus 23 and Deuteronomy 24. When you get to those three chapters, you will discover that God made provision for the poor in the establishing of laws in relationship, even to the harvesting of crops.
The individual who was the harvester was told that he mustn't rip right into the corners of the fields.
Nor was the harvester allowed to go back through a second time and pick up what had been left in the initial pass through the fields.
By means of this, God was expressing the fact that he was concerned for the poor and the needy, and he wanted those who had been given the privilege of being harvesters, who had been successful in their endeavors, of recognizing that they too then should bear the characteristics of a covenant keeping God. And so that by their ability to leave behind that which was extraneous to them, then the poor and the needy may come and pick it up. In other words, God was concerned for people like Naomi and people like Ruth. And so that is why she says, let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain.
You'll notice that it involves endeavor. There wasn't a provision that God had made where he had people stand with buckets of grain for folks who just didn't want to work. This wasn't some social welfare program where if you didn't want to work, you just hung around. And eventually somebody came by and gave you stuff which other people were working very, very hard to get.
No, he made wonderful provision because it demanded the an honest endeavors of the poor. But the honest endeavors of the poor were rewarded. This was the origination of the program. I will work for food. And these individuals really meant what they said. And so they went to work for food.
Impudence and greediness on the part of the poor.
Expose them to a justifiable contempt and neglect, impudence and greediness on the part of the poor. Expose them to a justifiable contempt and neglect.
I've got every distinction in my mind between the individual to whom I am prepared to give money or buy a meal. And the individual whom I will gladly walk past and give nothing and binomial.
So, for example, outside a water tower in Chicago, when I come upon the guy with two sticks and four plastic buckets turned up on their bottoms, sitting now a half and a half crouched position gone. Babbage and the bad, bad, bad debat doing bad evidence. But I said, this is good. This is very good. I'm going to give this guy money. He's entertaining. He's at least doing something.
The guy goes, hey. Hey, hey, hey.
Hey, don't be impudent, tell me, enviornment.
You stand there with a Labrador dog and induced Gilden me to give you my hard earned cash. Do something. Bang a drum. Dance. Something.
So you see, when God provides for the poor. Tremendous wisdom in it, isn't there? He doesn't want the poor to suffer. Jesus says you will always have the poor with you.
So we do not neglect the poor, but we do not demean the poor by leaving them in a state of abject poverty induced by their own willful indolence. Now, isn't it interesting to at least I hope you find it interesting that Ruth doesn't ask her mother in law, what have you got planned for me? Everything possible, she woke up in the morning, she came down for breakfast, after all. She was an alien in a foreign land. She was the one that had moved. She came down, said, your mother in law, well, what are we going to do now?
I suppose you've been thinking about it while you were lying on your bed. What have you got planned? How are you going to provide for me? What am I supposed to do now?
She doesn't do that. Nor did she ask Neomi to join her. She doesn't say Neomi. I think the two of us are to get out in the fields and pick up some of that leftover grain. No, she says, Naomi, if it's okay with you, I would like to go out into the fields and pick up the leftover grain. Why?
Naomi had lived longer. Naomi had endured more. Naomi had and if you like, the the sense of rest and of ease that younger people have not earned.
And so she says, I won't go there if it's all right with you. I will risk being ostracized as a foreigner.
I will risk the potential physical abuse of the men in the company in order that I might fulfill for you, Naomi, an obligation which I believe that God has laid on me.
That when I said to you and treat me not to leave in order to return from following after the four where thou Gowest I will go and where thou dwellings, thy will dwell, thy people will be my people and die. God, my God. I knew, Naomi, that that was going to mean something.
And this morning, part of what it means is I go to the fields. You get to stay.
In an earlier generation of Scottish commentator says young persons should be cheerfully willing to bear fatigues and troubles for the sake of their aging parents. A young woman cheerfully laboring for her aged parents is far happier than a fashionable lady spending in idleness and dissipation. The fruits of the industry of our ancestors.
Tremendous practical lessons. So far from Bethlehem. So many years have passed. And yet many of us have parents who are in that phase of life now.
I trust none of us are waking up in the morning and say, no, what are you going to do for me today?
You say, well, that was nice of her to go out there. It's obviously quite a nice job. No, it's not. It's a lousy job. What she was going to go and do was akin to going around and picking up old aluminum cans.
That you can recycle so you can eke out an existence. That's essentially the sort of level of subsistence living to which she commits herself. There's no there's no prestige in this.
She's not one of the routine harvesters. She's not the routine Gleaner. She's not part of an employed group. She comes along when everyone else is gone. And she ferret's around and picks up the bits and pieces. She's like moving around a building site looking for aluminum cans so that she can take them into one of those big drums and get 10 cents or five cents for every one. And once she's amassed a huge big polythene bag of them, then she'll be able to go home and tell her mother in law and the army that she's had a good day.
All right, T.J., it is wonderful, isn't it? She's not going out here on the basis of her rights. Few as they were. She's going out here in the hope of finding favor. The word is actually the same word that would be used to describe Grace. It's the same word that you have in Genesis six eight when it says that Noah found Grace in the eyes of the Lord or Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.
I'm going to go out into the fields, I'll pick up the leftover grain, and I'll do that behind anyone in whose eyes I manage to find favor. She's teaching, as you see, by her attitude and by her actions.
That everything that God gives any of us and every opportunity of obtaining what we need are undeserved nurses from the giver of every good.
When a man or a woman when a young person actually believes that and has that written into the corner of their existence, then it will transform how we approach any task.
And every day, everything that God gives us and every opportunity of obtaining what we need is an undeserved expression of his favor.
And in a society that is preoccupied with its rights.
The word of God calls us to focus on privileges.
So Naomi, who doubtless might have wished for better circumstances for both herself and Ruth, responds kindly and just a little phrase. She says, go ahead. My daughter I sat for a long time wondering, I wonder what her tone of voice was when she said that.
I don't know what it was. I just wondered about it, if you want to wonder about it. I'll pause for just a moment, let you wonder. They only said to her, go ahead. My daughter.
I don't think so. Go ahead. My daughter. I don't think so. I think probably she watched her shoulders going down the street and she said, go ahead, my daughter. In other words, I wish that it was very different from this, Ruth. I wish I could have brought you back to a really nice place.
I wish we'd been able to come back at a different level. I wish that we'd been able to slide right back in to wonderful circumstances. And here you are out picking up aluminum cans. You know, the equivalent of and you're doing it because you love me and because you say you love God.
Now you go on my daughter. Incidentally, in passing.
Parents have to learn to respond to the good graces of their children in an equally graceful fashion. There are many children who, in endeavoring to do well for their parents or for their parents in law, have been so soured in the process by the reaction of the parents, which, instead of being grateful and gracious, has been cantankerous and onerous and so dull the joy of service and the privilege of the opportunity.
If it is true that the young must learn to serve the elderly, then it must equally be true that the elderly need to learn with good grace to accept the offerings of the young. And you see this perfectly in harmony here.
A humbling reminder for all of us, regardless of age, from a message called Grace and Favor. You're listening to Truth for Life. The Bible teaching Ministry of Allaster Beg. Today's message comes to you as part of Oncor 2020 because it was one of the most popular programs delivered in the past year. Clearly, the story of Naomi and Ruth resonates with many people. Maybe you're in a season of caring for an older relative, or perhaps you're on the receiving end of that care. These family relations require humility and selfless love characteristics that are grown through a lifetime of seeking the Lord and growing in Christian maturity. That kind of spiritual maturity is also the subject of a book we're recommending today from Alistair's friend, Sinclair Ferguson. It's titled Maturity Growing Up and Going On in the Christian Life. We are often tempted to look for quick solutions to get us where we want to go. We may listen to a short podcast or read a quick devotional and hope that will produce instant spiritual fruit. But in this book, Sinclair Ferguson explains that spiritual maturity is the result of not one specific action, but rather a lifetime of spiritual growth through dedication and perseverance through 12. Easy to read chapters. Ferguson offers a fully developed vision of the New Testaments, teaching on nurturing a growing faith no matter where you are in your walk with the Lord. We all have room to mature. We highly recommend this book for every believer.
Whether you've been a Christian for three weeks or 30 years, we'll send you a copy along with our thanks. When you donate today to support this ministry, Truth for Life is entirely listener supported. So we are grateful for your generosity. It's what brings these messages to listeners all around the world free of charge. And it's quick and easy to give online at Truth for Life. Dot org slash donate or you're welcome to give by phone call eight eight eight five eight eight seven eight eight four. Once again, the number is eight eight eight five eight eight seven eight eight four. If you'd prefer to mail your donation, write to Truth per Life at P.O. Box thirty nine eight thousand Cleveland, Ohio four four one three nine. Be sure to include a note requesting the book Maturity by Sinclair Ferguson. I'm Bob Lipin. Tomorrow, Allaster concludes this message about Ruth and Naomi describing the relationship between working hard and trusting God's provision. Be sure to join us Friday. This daily program features the Bible teaching of Allaster Begg, and it's furnished by Truth for Life.
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