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Grace and Favor (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
August 21, 2020 4:00 am

Grace and Favor (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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August 21, 2020 4:00 am

Some people believe faith means idly waiting for God’s intervention—but as the book of Ruth shows us, that couldn’t be further from the truth! Study along with us on Truth For Life as Alistair Begg teaches us how to put faith into action.


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In stressful seasons in our life, while we're praying and longing for God's intervention, that doesn't mean we should sit idly by twiddling their thumbs. God calls us to work hard even while trusting in his provision. Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg continues our study in Ruth Chapter two, illustrating the wisdom of putting faith into action.

Then, 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. But the first heading came out of there as 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. 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 gonna 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.

Incidentally, and 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. And so off she went and began to glean in the fields behind the harvester's.

I hope you'll notice as well that Ruth is not actually sitting around waiting for some miraculous intervention in her life. She doesn't arrive here in Bethlehem and begin to have these very lengthy prayer meetings with last all through the night and into the early hours of the morning and then through half of the day up until lunchtime. Oh, you say that sounds like a bit of a heresy. You mean she didn't pray? Well, there's no indication of her praying.

I'm sure she prayed, but she didn't pray when she should be doing what she should be doing, which was getting up and getting out and looking for a job.

She was, in many senses, the answer to her own prayer. She was hoping to find favor in someone's eyes. But she wasn't going to find favor in someone's eyes unless she put herself in front of someone's eyes. And she wasn't gonna be able to put herself in front of someone's eyes unless she got out of her bed, unless she got out of her bed and went to the place where she would meet the people in whose eyes she might find favor. Do you know how many Christians are sitting around waiting for some miraculous intervention before they proceed with the plan of God for their life? Or worse still, with their plan, which they're sending up to God for the future? Common sense is not in abundance in the Christian church. In my observation.

A great lack of common sense. I have the privilege of listening to a fair amount of observations and investigations. And one of the glaring omissions that I have noticed is the omission of common sense on the part of the people of God.

So when they come and tell you how it is that they believe that they're going to make these discoveries of God's plan for their lives. It's quite incredible process. And it seems to pass them by that maybe in the routine humdrum, ordinary ins and outs of life, God may actually be ordering their events.

He's sitting around waiting for some miraculous intervention, waiting for a special letter that arrives by a dog dropped on your roof or something like that. You're waiting for your chimney to fall off. Have you done some bizarre pact with God? And you're waiting now. And this is the 17th year you've been waiting for for the fleece to dry out or to soak up or whatever else it is. Now, if Ruth had done that, Naomi would have starved to death, waiting for her to come home.

So common sense led to careful thinking and careful thinking, led to sensible action.

No great mystery to this Christian life is a practical thing.

Use your common sense. Think carefully and proceed accordingly.

The will of God is not a package let down from heaven on a string.

It is a scroll that unrolls from day to day, and the way that we discover the plan of God for our lives is proceeding on the basis of common sense.

Careful thought and specific action, not relying on our own insight, trusting in God, but nevertheless using the faculties with which he has entrusted us. So what we discover is that she was prepared to do what she could do and to leave in God's care what she was unable to make happen. Also, you should note that she sought the advice of others close to her. That's the inference in verse two. She said, let me go to the fields. In other words, I'm not just going to dash off here. There's a sense in which she's saying, if you think this is OK, if you concur with this and so on. In other words, she found the will of God and the sensible advice of those who cared for her most.

Do you know how many girls would be prevented from marrying a complete clone if they would pay careful attention to the sensible advice of those who love the most?

Don't tell me that some miraculous intervention of God is propelling you towards this marriage. When those who love you most and care for your deepest know that it's a flat out bad idea. Don't hide under the disguise of prayer when the matters are so crystal clear. How do we discover the will of God? By careful thought, by common sense. By taking action.

By listening to the advice of those who care for us most. And then you see that God's provision follows. It is undramatic. It is certainly not miraculous. In fact, from one perspective, it looks like the whole deal unfolds by accident. Look at that little phrase that in verse three. So she went out and began to glean in the fields behind the harvesters, as it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz. Remember boys from verse one?

As it turned out.

The jumbled patchwork of fields bore no identifiable markers. It was not a Naomi said, now I've got somebody that's a member of the family here. If you can go out and try and find boy as this field, as probably our home run, you know. No, he did. The writer is making the point that at the moment, unbeknownst to either of these women, there is this individual, Boaz, who is a kinsman through marriage to this lady, Naomi. But it is an unrelated fact to this girl going out in the morning and determining that she's going to clean in the fields.

The authorized version, the King James version. Translation of this phrase is her happe HAARP was to light on a part of the field belonging to bullous.

The best contemporary translation or paraphrase of that would be. As luck would have it, she worked in the field of Boaz.

In other words, as far as she was concerned, she went walking down the road, she went in a field, she just chose a field and she said, is it okay in this field services here? Go ahead. So she started to pick up the stuff in that field. And as it turned out.

Apparently accidentally.

Without being led down, you see goal here, turn here, goal here, go.

Then she found the will of God. No, she went down the road. She had gone to work in a field. She was a field. Let's work in it.

And as it happened, she was in the field of Boaz. You don't need to be unsettled by that. Is not a heresy. This is life.

Many of the circumstances of our lives, our joys and our sorrows are directly related to happenstances.

We could never say that we made this decision on the basis of certain divine intervention. No, we said we knew that we had to go to a school and we said, well, I could go to that one, that one or that one.

And we went to that one. And as it turned out, it was in that context that X or Y unfolded.

So what was the roof sheer coincidence in an unplanned set of circumstances. Was actually, as it becomes apparent later in the chapter, an indication of God's gracious care. We've seen this in the story of Joseph before, haven't we, that even our accidents, such as we would view them from our perspective, are under God's care? The misery says one or happiness of our lives is often derived from accidents that appear quite trivial. But you see, God has the whole world in his hands, as Ephesians 111 says he's working everything out according to the purpose of his will. Romans, eleven thirty six, says for from him and through him and to him are all things.

So even the way in which Ruth steps out in the morning, even the way in which she exercises her free choice.

All of that is from him and through him and to him.

Abram's Kuyper, who was the prime minister of Foreland. He was also the founder of the Free University of Amsterdam, which he founded in 1880, given the inaugural address at the founding of that great institution, he said in the course of his talk, there is not an inch.

In a whole area of human existence, of which Christ, the sovereign of all, does not cry, it is mine.

He's got the whole world in his hands.

Do you believe that?

Do you live? Do we live as though we believe it?

Charles Simeon in 1759 says to his congregation, What is before us?

We know not whether we shall live or die, but this. We know that all things are ordered and sure, everything is ordered with untiring wisdom and unbounded love by the our God who art, love, grandads and all things to see thy hand through. Jesus Christ, our Lord. In other words, here we are introduced to this paradoxical situation where we have God's sovereign overruling of everything, even our stupidities, our mistakes, our disobedience is our rebellion's.

All of this being ushered into the unfolding plan, which he is by which he is conforming everything to the purpose of his will.

Now we need immediately to distance ourselves from a view of God's sovereignty, which is deterministic and which is static. There are a lot of Christians I hear talk about the sovereignty of God, and they just sound exactly like Muslims.

You know, it is it's in the will of Allah or in the Latin case across or whatever will be will be. Doesn't matter. You know, you can drive on the wrong side of the road. You can jump out of a 40 story building, you know, and you will be caught by an angel and deposited safely on the ground. If it is in the will of God for you.

I got news for you. It isn't. Prepare to hit the ground real hard.

So I believe in the sovereignty of God is not determinism. Whereby we would view ourselves as pawns being moved arbitrarily on a divine chess board. Or that we would be viewed as puppets with strings that are being moved without any reference to our own freedom and choice and responsibility. But on the part of a divine puppeteer. The Bible nowhere teaches such a thing.

Rather, as I say, it introduces us to this paradox, leaves us to wrestle with a juxtaposition of the fact that we have real choice, that we are moral beings, that we have real responsibilities, that the providential care of God does not override human decision or human action.

How did Ruth end up where she was?

Because she woke up in the morning, she said, I think I'll go green in the fields. Whose choice was that?

Ruths. Why did she go there? Well, really, because of Naomi's encouragement. Whose encouragement? Naomi's encouraging. How was it that she could glean in the field of a guy called Bullous. Because boys are determined that this would be the time when he harvested this field, who decided that?

Boaz. So, boy, I said, OK, we're going to harvest this field Ruths and I'm going to glean in the field, Naomi said, why don't you go ahead and Gleen in the field. And these were the instruments of God's providential care, which his hand uses in order to move forward.

Actually, his purpose of redemption.

Because out of the lineage of this roof is coming, King David and down through the same line is coming, the Lord Jesus Christ himself. This is phenomenal. What he said is, surely God couldn't leave it up to, you know, human choice. I mean, what if Ruth had gone to the wrong field for crying out loud? Well, stay up late and have coffee and think that one out. But she sure didn't go to the field as a result of being sent to the field. She said, hey, this looks like a good field.

Through it all, God is working everything according to the counsel of his will.

Now, our loved ones, we do need to hold on to this.

It's much easier to put these issues of Providence in place when the sun is shining and the band's playing and everything seems to be moving in. A great confluence of encouragement.

It is for me much harder when I walk out of here, as I did this morning, and have one of the members of our congregation ask if I and others of us would pray for her 11 year old nephew, who has just been diagnosed with a form of soft cell carcinoma, which is a more virulent form of cancer and for which there is absolutely no treatment at all. Now, you see, this is where the doctrine of Providence stands up and demands attention. You know, this is where we were not going to play fast and loose with whether God has the whole world in his hands and whether he has this wee boy in his care. And we're not going to do the silly stuff of the openness of God notion of saying, oh, well, that's not one that God has in his portfolio, you know? That one is in the devil's portfolio. He's he's in charge of that one. And that's taken God by surprise. That's just an ancient heresy brushed up and repackaged for the 21st century.

No, you see, we need to hold on to this.

That God's providential care is expressed through the outworking of our free human choices and decisions and responsibilities.

And especially when life appears as it must have appeared to Neomi to be simply a jumble of unconnected threads.

Can you imagine how often she must have set herself, you know, if Elimelech hadn't been so impatient and taken as a way off the Mawla? And my sons as well. Goodness gracious, maybe if we'd stayed back in Bethlehem, perhaps this perhaps that Lord God, your way. This whole thing just looks to me like it's all it's like it's like Fuze wire, it's like it's like the electrical system in a 100 year old house. I can't make head or tail of any part of it at all.

See where you're going to go on that day.

The only place you can go is to say that to trust in God's favor. Will allow us to get enough of an inkling of this truth to keep us marching for another day, namely that the unconnected and disconnected and entangled threads that we see in the tapestry of our crazy lives is actually only the back view of what God is doing. And that eventually one day when we get the chance to see it from the front.

All of these strange and dark threads and difficult joins and knots and disappointments and discoveries will prove to have been absolutely right and absolutely best.

The head writer says. Praise him for his grace and favor. To our fathers in distress.

Where are you going, Ruth? Well, I'm gonna go out and pick up some of the stuff in the fields, if that's okay. Naomi, I'm going to do it behind somebody in whose eyes I find favor.

Praise him for his grace and favor. Praise him. Still the same. Forever.

Some of us tonight probably need just to have a silent time with God now or later, because we've been railing against things.

We've been so overwhelmed by the disconnected bits and pieces, by the tangled threads. The devil has used so much of this as a messenger from himself to make us doubt God and to be disrupted in the journey of our lives.

We've been waiting for a miracle. We've been waiting for somebody to pull a flag out of the chimney or a dove out of the top hat or some kind of spiritual thing.

And nothing seems to be happening at all. And suddenly it just seems so sensible that if we would just read our Bibles and trust God and use common sense and apply careful thought and get on with the next thing. Maybe a lot more straightforward.

Calling us to trust God and get to work. You're listening to Truth for Life and Allaster Begg will close in a minute with prayer. So please keep listening. Alister titled today's message Grace and Favor. That's part of our series called Oncor 2020. Perhaps you know someone who would be encouraged by this message or maybe your new to Truth for Life. And we'd like to catch up on previous studies from Allaster. There are plenty of ways you can do this. These daily messages are all available on our Web site. Truth for Life, dot o r g. There you can listen to or view transcripts of these messages free of charge. You can also listen on the Truth for Life mobile app or through Google Home or Amazon. Alexa. All of these options are free to access because of support we received from listeners like you who cover the cost of producing and distributing these messages. And to say thank you for your donation today, we'd love to send you a book titled Maturity by pastor and theologian Sinclair Ferguson. The apostle Paul said that his goal was to present those he taught as mature and complete. But what exactly does that mean? What are the characteristics of mature Christianity? How do we make sure we're on the right track? Well, this book points us along the path. It also cautions us against challenges and pitfalls that might stunt our spiritual growth. Request your copy of Maturity by Sinclair Ferguson. When you give today at Truth for Life dot org slash donate or call eight eight eight five eight eight seven eight eight four. Now, with the weekend in view, I want to remind you you're invited to watch Allaster teach from the pulpit at Parkside Church on Sundays when the services streamed live. To find out of Allaster, we'll be teaching this weekend. Check the schedule at Truth for Life dot org slash live. Now, here's allaster to close with prayer.

Father, these thoughts are in many ways disconnected.

We pray that you would join the dots for us in our own minds, that you would banish from our recollection anything that is actually untrue or unhelpful, that you would instill in our hearts a genuine sense of dependance upon you and increasingly unwavering trust in the fact that eventually when the silver cord is broken and we no longer see as now we see that when we see you face to face, we'll be able to say it will be worth it all.

When when I see Jesus in life's trials will seem so small when I see Christ.

And in the meantime, will you help us then to read our Bibles, to trust you, to use common sense, to think carefully and to do the next thing?

For Jesus sake.

I'm Bob Lapine for Alistair Begg and all of us at Truth for Life. Wishing you a relaxing weekend. Hope you can join us Monday as we continue revisiting listener favorites from the past year as part of Oncor 20/20. Today's program was furnished by Truth for Life.

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