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Gleaning in the Fields of Grace

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
May 26, 2022 12:00 am

Gleaning in the Fields of Grace

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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May 26, 2022 12:00 am

Sometimes following God's will doesn't seem to produce immediate blessings. For Ruth, it meant leaving behind her family and friends and trying to scrape a living in a foreign country. But as she gleaned in the fields of distant relative day after day, she soon realized she was gleaning in the fields of grace.

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God works in us, for us, and with us. Look at verse 17. So she gleaned in the field until evening.

She went to work. Warren Wiersbe commented on this scene by repeating the Latin proverb that says, Providence assists not the idol. Even God won't steer a parked car.

This is the principle of collaboration. Ruth went out to work, and Boaz is working everything out. The union between God's sovereignty and our responsibility can seem mysterious. Sometimes the place where God has us doesn't make sense to us at the time. And sometimes following God's will doesn't seem to produce blessing. For Ruth, God's plan meant leaving behind her family and friends and trying to scrape out a living in a foreign country. But as she gleaned in the fields of Boaz, God was demonstrating his grace.

Welcome to Wisdom for the Heart. Stephen is continuing through his series from the book of Ruth. This is message number five in that series, and it's called, Gleaning in the Fields of Grace. What we are witnessing in the fields of Bethlehem is nothing less than the riches of grace shown in sheer kindness towards someone most unlikely and certainly undeserving. Grace is God choosing us, not because we were the best applicant for the job, not because we're the head of the class, not because we have the most to offer, not because we stand out above everybody else. No, Paul wrote it this way, God chose us, and he chose to be rich in mercy toward us because of his great love with which he loved us. Even when we were dead in our transgressions, he made us alive together with Christ so that in the ages to come he might show the surpassing riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. I like to think of it this way as I've studied again this text.

Ruth is literally gleaning in the fields of grace. In fact, I want to emphasize that word and that thought as we go back through this encounter. I was struck in chapter two by the obvious activity of grace. So I want to give you six principles on the subject of grace, and I'll spend a couple of minutes on each point.

I could spend 10 minutes on each or more. If I did that, we'd be here for more than an hour. But as a further demonstration of grace, I will be concise. And all the people said, not so loud. It reminded me a mother was sitting in a church service with her five-year-old who was fidgeting and noisy. She was so afraid that at any moment he was going to blurt out and say something audibly, and she didn't know what to do. And then it hit her and she leaned over and she said, listen, if you make too much noise, the pastor will lose his place and have to start all over again.

He didn't move a muscle after that. Now each of these six principles will begin with the word grace. They're going to describe just one more facet of grace as we see it played out in flesh and blood between Boaz, who is an illustration of Christ, and Ruth, who is an illustration of the bride of Christ. Principle number one. Let me give it to you and then we'll go to the text. Grace takes the initiative and always makes the first move. Go to verse eight of chapter two.

Then Boaz, who by the way now will be the first to speak, says to Ruth, listen carefully, my daughter. Do not go to glean in another field. Furthermore, do not go on from this one. Stay here with my maids. Let your eyes be on the field which they reap and go after them. Indeed, I've commanded the servants not to touch you.

When you're thirsty, go to the water jars and drink from what the servants draw. Now again, in our culture we think, well that's great, he speaks to her. No, this is dramatic. In this culture, a man wouldn't initiate conversation like this, certainly to a foreigner.

You remember when the disciples came back to the Lord who was at the well, they were shocked. He's talking to a woman, and in addition to that, a Samaritan woman, a foreigner. And he's drunk out of her cup. He is now ceremonially unclean. Boaz will invite her through conversation with her to drink out of his jar. And he's initiating action. He's initiating conversation to this foreigner, this stranger, somebody really low on the rung of society.

That doesn't happen. In order to understand a little bit of how dramatic this was, let me illustrate it this way. My wife and I had the privilege of touring some of the sites throughout London and in Scotland on a seminary tour a couple of years ago. And we saw several palaces of Queen Elizabeth II. We were told that whenever she was in that particular palace, the flag would be flying to let us know the queen is in residence.

We decided to visit one particular palace. We walked along the street to it and we stood outside the massive iron gate. It was locked, of course. We tried it.

It was locked. We stood there just looking through the wrought iron gate. We knew the queen was in.

The flag was flying. We never saw her. But just imagine Queen Elizabeth coming to the porch, appearing suddenly at the doorway, waving at us and then running over to talk to us. I saw you out here and I thought I'd come straight away and have a chat. We'd be absolutely floored.

Pretty good impression, huh? Wouldn't you say? We would be floored. Queens don't do that. They don't come out. They don't talk to people at the gate. That's how dramatic this is. You don't expect a conversation. It reminds me of the news.

Maybe you heard about it. The senator who was called by president-elect Obama. He introduced himself and she hung up on him. He called back.

Did it again. She hung up on him again. Finally, she was interviewed and she said, well, I don't get a phone call from the president-elect.

I thought it was a gag. So I hung up on him. Now, who would expect a call from the president? Who would expect a conversation with the queen? You don't have that happen unless you've done something. Or maybe you've given something. You deserve that conversation. You earn that special conversation.

That's maybe in a long shot how you talk to somebody like that. You've got to do something heroic. You've got to be worthy.

Do we take this stunning announcement for granted? God in these last days has spoken to us through his son. Grace is God speaking to us. Unworthy. Less than heroic.

Peasants. Illustrated now centuries before the coming of Christ when Boaz spoke to Ruth. No more remarkable in that culture than the queen speaking to us in our culture. Grace takes the initiative.

Boaz spoke first. The second principle of grace expands on that. Grace surprises us with provision and protection. Would you notice after Boaz rehearses to Ruth everything he's going to provide for her. Her first sentence to him in verse 10.

Go there. In fact, get your pencil ready to circle a word. Her first word is a word of disbelief. She cannot believe his kindness. She can't comprehend his care.

So don't miss the very first word she ever says to Boaz in that first conversation. It is the word what? Why? I love that.

This is the word. Why? Why have you done this for me? Why are you talking to me? Why are you providing for me?

I think it's wonderful. The recipient of grace is always surprised because they know they're undeserving. Ruth doesn't say here, I knew I'd catch your eye. I knew it wouldn't be long.

Stand in line. Oh no. She doesn't say, oh I knew you'd single me out. Why? I'm fairly convinced that when we arrive in heaven and we see the splendor of his preparation on our behalf and we begin to grasp the eternal role as the bride of Christ and we kneel at the feet of our Boaz, I have little doubt that the first word we may say to our kinsmen redeemer is the same word.

Why? Why did you do all this for me? See, that's the principle of grace. And the recipient is left nearly speechless as grace dawns on the shadows of their mind. They're amazed. And so we sing of it. Amazing grace.

Say the words with me. How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I'm found. Was blind but now I see.

Principle number three. Grace is willing to play the role of servant to the unworthy. Now we're going back and taking a rather quick look at these first few verses, but I do want you to know that there's an lapse of time between their first conversation that ends in verse 13 and what happens next in verse 14. We don't know how long Ruth evidently goes out and spends the rest of the morning gleaning in the fields. No doubt she's amazed that she's working at this incredibly kind landowner. But now it's time for lunch. And she, as he has already instructed her, sits outside the circle, but close enough, near enough to get water to drink. Perhaps she's munching on raw grain that she's gathered in the field if she has anything to eat at all. But Boaz has been watching for this moment.

Oh, and the timing is perfect. Look at verse 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. Now this implies that she doesn't have any bread of her own. And he effectively is asking her to eat with him. This is their first date.

This is the original Outback restaurant. Not that unusual. I mean, you know, he saw her that morning and invited her to lunch within the same day. Okay, it was a group date, but it was still connecting. It was a start.

Don't take this moment for granted. Ruth would have been amazed all over again. In fact, apart from what he's doing and how he seems to be interested in her, there's the physical need.

A gleaner was one step away from a beggar on a street corner. There's no surprise to me that she has no bread. She probably would have worked all day with little to eat, if anything, other than raw grain. And then makes it home to Naomi to cook whatever they've been able to pull together.

So don't take for granted the fact that a satisfactory meal is an unexpected blessing. Verse 14 informs us that Ruth is invited to take some of the bread and dip it into what we know as a vinegar-based sauce, which was customary for this culture. Here, Ruth, here's a piece of bread and come over here and you can dip it into this vinegar.

Now it gets better. Verse 14 again. So she sat beside the reapers and he served her roasted grain. Well, we got bread and roasted grain. And she ate and was satisfied and had some left over. He is serving her now cooked grain from his own skillet.

They would heat it over a fire. Perhaps he took that himself, kneels down, and as it was, their custom brushed some roasted kernel, maybe onto a little mat she may have been on or maybe into her lap. Did her eyes meet? Did they both blush by the obvious implication of this spontaneous moment? You'd better believe it. I mean, I would have loved to have seen that. You know, the other reapers, Boaz's employees are watching.

You know, maybe we should leave these two alone here. Ruth eats, the text implies that Ruth rose to go back to gleaning. In fact, I'll show you in a moment how it implies that she has left while they're all still eating.

They're all still sitting there. It's possible that she was maybe a little embarrassed by this attention. She was aware of the curious looks and the glances from Boaz's employees in her direction.

Nobody had missed this moment. Boaz, the prince, was treating a servant less than a servant, a foreigner, as if she were a member of his closest circle of friends. What grace.

Principle number four. Grace works behind the scenes to provide for the beloved. Now, as soon as Ruth gets up to leave, Boaz adds more shock to his stunned friends and co-workers. They're evidently still there, which implies, again, she's leaving and they're still going to stay behind.

Maybe they haven't quite finished. Look at verse 15. When she rose to glean, now she's out of earshot, Boaz commanded his servants, saying, let her glean even among the sheaves and do not insult her. Also, you shall purposely pull out for her some grain from the bundles and leave it, that she may glean and don't rebuke her, don't get in her way. Now, obviously, this is not normal behavior. Boaz, are you saying that you literally want us to throw grain in her path?

Yes. Come on, just ask her to marry you. It'll be easier on the rest of us. Get it over with. Boaz says, no, there are two chapters left.

Don't go so fast here. But can you imagine, Ruth, as she's continuing to work? She doesn't know the command. She doesn't know special provisions. She's just got to be thinking, man, I'm just coming along.

There's a lot of grain here. And the employees are just dropping it as they work along. She's going to figure it out. Maybe Boaz doesn't mind if she figures it out.

So she works away, though. She's, for the most part, unaware. We have every indication that she's oblivious. We, too, are most often oblivious to grace.

We are. The work of God behind the scenes on our behalf. Every once in a while we'll catch a clue. We might see his hand and we'll talk about something that happened and we know that God was involved. The truth is he is involved in everything. We're oblivious to much of it. But he is busy at work behind the scenes on our behalf. We are his beloved.

He works in us and with us. Let me add quickly then at this point that idea, but let me principle-ize it for you. Principle number five. Grace does not eliminate a response of diligence and discipline. It does not eliminate a response of diligence and discipline. If you go to other passages of scripture and you track this idea through, you find out that God does work in us, both to will and to do of his good pleasure, Philippians 2.13.

He works in us. We're also told that God works everything out for us. Romans 8.28. We're also told that God works with us. In fact, in the Gospel of Mark, he commands them to go and to preach and it says, and they went out and preached everywhere while the Lord worked with them. God works in us, for us, and with us. Look at verse 17. In fact, you ought to just underline that first phrase.

It follows along the lines of this principle clearly. So she gleaned in the field until evening. She went to work. She didn't just say, well, just load up my bucket here or my bushel basket.

Just put it right in here. She goes out and she gathers it. God through Boaz will provide for her, but she has to go and in effect work for it. She gleaned in the field until evening. Notice what happens next. Then she beat out what she had gleaned. And it was about an ephah of barley. She took it up and went into the city.

Now get this. She didn't ask Boaz for a ride. He probably would have given it to her. She didn't ask the servants to beat out the barley. She didn't ask somebody to carry back to the city what amounts to at least 25 pounds. Wait, she doesn't do that. She works. Warren Wiersbe commented on this scene by repeating the Latin proverb that says, Providence assists, not the idol.

Another author put it a little lower down on the shelf. Even God won't steer a parked car. This is the principle of collaboration.

Ruth went out to work and Boaz is working everything out. In many ways that illustrates the work of the church, doesn't it? The bride of Christ. We toil to advance the gospel. We work to make disciples. Jesus Christ said, the harvest is plenteous, but the labors are what?

Few. Matthew 9, 37. J. Vernon McGee kind of quipped in his little commentary on this paragraph. He said, so many Christians sing at the top of their lungs, we shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves, and then go out and do nothing. That old gospel song has the Lord saying, my house is full, but my field is empty.

Who will go and work for me today? Ruth is in need of help from God, but Ruth is willing to work as God allows. So now after a very long day, she finally, she arrives home exhausted, but satisfied. Maybe lately you would be able to identify with her. Maybe it's working in some ministry. Maybe it's juggling the time demands of two jobs and a family. Maybe it's challenges on the campus or in the corporate scene where you're striving for excellence to glorify Christ. Maybe you're undergoing wearying, strenuous tests to your faith. Maybe you're raising a brood of children to love Christ and you pillow your head at night. You are exhausted, but satisfied. Or maybe you're just exhausted and not so satisfied because there's so much to do.

Grace often goes about its business in need of a nap. Have you ever noticed that so often Christians you can count on to carry out some responsibility are the people who already seem to have so much of it? As Paul cheers us on in Romans 12-11, don't lag behind in diligence. Be fervent in spirit. In other words, get with it.

Get on with it. Serving, he says, the Lord. Friends, if the rapture should happen any day now, may the Lord find us in need of some rest. Grace takes the initiative and makes the first move. Secondly, grace surprises us with provision and protection. Third, grace plays the role of servant to the unworthy. Fourth, grace often works behind the scenes to provide for the beloved. Fifth, grace does not eliminate a response of diligence and discipline. One more principle gleaned from the fields. Number six, grace at work in one person's life has a way of giving grace to another. Look at verse 17.

Let's just read through this quickly. So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she'd gleaned and it was about an ephah of barley. She took it up, went into the city, and her mother-in-law saw what she'd gleaned. Ruth also took it out and gave Naomi what she had left after and she was satisfied. This is an implication that she's taking out that meal, that roasted grain, so that Naomi now doesn't have to cook to eat her supper.

She can immediately eat and be satisfied. Verse 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.

Trust me, he will be. So she told her mother-in-law with whom she'd worked and said, The name of the man with whom I work today is Boaz. Verse 20, Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, May he be blessed of the Lord who's not withdrawn his kindness to the living and the dead. Again, Naomi said to her, The man is our relative.

He is a potential kinsman redeemer. Ruth, he is a potential husband. One look at 25 pounds of barley and Naomi is hearing wedding bells. Let's go pick out the dress.

We're there. She can see it at her older age. She knows what's happening. And listen, this is the first time in this book Naomi is praising God.

You remember? She came back and she said, God is what? God's abandoned me. Don't call me Naomi. Don't call me satisfaction, pleasantness. Call me bitter.

Change my name. But now the grace of God in Ruth's life has just spilled over into Naomi's life. Naomi's, she's having a fit.

Now don't misunderstand here. Naomi's joy is not based on Ruth. The key thing to see here is that Naomi is hoping in who Boaz was. What Boaz has said.

What Boaz can do and be. This is a formula for Christian joy. We don't hope in anybody else. We'll be disappointed. We don't hope in anything else.

Where is your security today? Our hope is in who Christ is. We hope in what Christ has said. We hope in what Christ can do for us, his beloved. That's where our hope is.

And he will never disappoint us. So Ruth returns the next day to the fields of Boaz. Verse 23, these literally become fields of grace for her. She's going to glean, the text tells us, until the end of the barley harvest and the wheat harvest.

That would take around seven weeks. Did they eat lunch together again? You better believe it. It's in the Hebrew, somewhere.

We're not told, but you can imagine it. We do know that at the end of the harvest, Ruth and Boaz are undeniably, deeply in love. Let me give you two more truths about grace. Number one, grace does not deal sporadically in your life.

It deals continuously. Whether you know it or not, whether you recognize it or not, grace is at work even now in your life. Secondly, you do not come in and out of the presence of grace. You live there.

You live there. And God is able, Paul wrote to the Corinthians, to make all grace abound to you. So that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed. Ladies and gentlemen, the truth is we are surrounded by grace. For eyes to see and hearts to sense and minds to capture the grace of God in our lives. I think we need to just stop and ask him to help us to see his grace at work in our lives. As we enter a new day, let's ask him to help us to see his hand more clearly, to trust him more deeply, to thank him more readily. As we go about our day, let's not forget we also are gleaning in the fields of grace. Your life may not be as you pictured or hoped it would, and the hand of God might be difficult to see. But as the children of God, we are the recipients of God's grace.

And God is at work, even if you can't see it now. I hope today's lesson was encouraging to you. If you missed a portion of it, we've posted it to our website. You'll find us online at wisdomonline.org. Thanks for listening today. Please join us again next time for more wisdom for the heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-14 07:15:03 / 2023-04-14 07:25:02 / 10

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