The Providence of God Serves us, Let us Be Servants! (Ruth 2)

Publié le 13 décembre 2020 dans Traductions

Sermon by Aurélien DUPERCHY, apprentice pastor

Some theologians say that the main purpose of the book of Ruth is to expose the providence of God. So it is difficult to study Ruth and miss out on this theme.

Bible reading – Ruth 2

Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, a man of standing from the clan of Elimelek, whose name was Boaz. 2 And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.” Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter.” 3 So she went out, entered a field and began to glean behind the harvesters. As it turned out,

she was working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelek. 4 Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The Lord be with you!” “The Lord bless you!” they answered. 5 Boaz asked the overseer of his harvesters, “Who does that young woman belong to?” 6 The overseer replied, “She is the Moabite who came back from Moab with Naomi. 7 She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.’ She came into the field and has remained here from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.”  8 So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me. 9 Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the women. I have told the men not to lay a hand on you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.”  10 At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She asked him, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?”  11 Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. 12 May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” 13 “May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord,” she said. “You have put me at ease by speaking kindly to your servant—though I do not have the standing of one of your servants.”  14 At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar.”  When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and had some left over. 15 As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, “Let her gather among the sheaves and don’t reprimand her. 16 Even pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.” 17 So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah. 18 She carried it back to town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gathered. Ruth also brought out and gave her what she had left over after she had eaten enough.  19 Her mother-in-law asked her, “Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you!”  Then Ruth told her mother-in-law about the one at whose place she had been working. “The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz,” she said. 20 “The Lord bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our guardian-redeemers.”  21 Then Ruth the Moabite said, “He even said to me, ‘Stay with my workers until they finish harvesting all my grain.’”  22 Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with the women who work for him, because in someone else’s field you might be harmed.”  23 So Ruth stayed close to the women of Boaz to glean until the barley and wheat harvests were finished. And she lived with her mother-in-law.

1 – What is the Providence of God

I have a question for you, do you believe in luck?

When I was 19, my mother was a caretaker in a company and we had to move because of some circumstances concerning this company, we had no accommodation to live in and we almost ended up on the street. One day, while my mother was shopping, by LUCK she met a person who knew high placed people who were able to find an apartment for us, we would normally have had to wait at least a year for an answer. We got a positive response straight away.  I was not a believer at the time, no one in my family was.

You know what ? I believe in luck!  Luck with a capital L like Lord!

After my conversion, I understood that God was in control at that time and that he provided for our needs by his providence.

What is providence?

The wise government of God over creation according to his will and his superiority over Creation.

The Reformed Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 says:

God, the good Creator of all things, in his infinite power and wisdom, sustains, directs, disposes and governs all creatures and all things, from the greatest to the smallest by his very wise and holy providence.

Proverbs 16:33 tells us it is the Lord who decides everything.

God has decreed all things, the smallest details of our lives, from the creation of the universe to the smallest leaf that we see falling from its tree.

And God governs the entirety of his creation with majesty, benevolence, love and all the attributes that characterize him.

In our intelligence tinged with evil, even when we know that God is good and that he has nothing to do with evil, sometimes we are tempted to say that if we were in God’s place, we would do better than him, if we had the power to prevent sin, we would. This implies that God does things in stupid ways and that we, we would be more reasoned than him.  As if we were smarter than God!

In his foreknowledge, that is, knowing all things that would happen from all eternity, God anticipated and decreed what was to happen before the foundation of the world.

If God is provident according to his attributes and we are participants in his work, this means that by living the will of God, we are participants in the benevolent providence of God.

There is an intrinsic connection between the fact that God decrees all things, his providence and service. The three are not opposed but are inseparable!

God demonstrates his intelligence, this text shows us that in providence he sets up what he has planned in a perfect and harmonious way.

2 – Service in providence (v1 to 14)

a) God watches and works in all things

Verse 22 of the first chapter and the first verse of the second serve as a transition in the story of Ruth, these two verses show details between two dialogues.

Verse 1 is the trigger of the text, it introduces us to Boaz who was both a rich and powerful man and who was one of Naomi’s close relatives since he was from Elimelech’s clan.

This verse is also a trigger because it suggests the end of misery for the two women!

This text demonstrates the important manifestation of Boaz in the life of Ruth and Naomi.

Ruth and Naomi had every reason to rejoice in the providence of God with Boaz and in her family in these difficult circumstances she was going through.

We see in this key verse that God in his providence, arranges everything in the smallest details and in the whole chapter, as well as in the whole book of Ruth which demonstrates that the providence of God is for our good.

It is common, in Christian circles, to say « I am a servant of God » as if God needed us to be served (Acts 17:25 he is not served by human hands, as if he had need of anything, he who gives all life, breath, and all things.). Rather, we should say, “I tend to be a servant of others and I make myself available for God to use me if he wills. » Knowing that it’s part of God’s will to want to use his children.

It is not us who organizes providence, it is God who does. God sets up what he wanted and not what we want by our own pride.

It seems strange in the 21st century to say that God does everything so that our circumstances are favorable, like Peter who was astonished to see Jesus washing his feet, we are also astonished to see God arranging everything for us but when Peter understood that the fact that Jesus washes his feet, gives him fellowship with Jesus, Peter even asks him to wash his hands and feet!

This astonishing act of Jesus bewilders us! And it gives us an example of how we should act towards others.

If God’s providence works for our good, how much more, should we serve one another?

And that’s what Ruth and Boaz did in the text!

b) They are ready to serve (v2 to 14)

In verse 2, Ruth said to Naomi, « Let me go and gather some abandoned ears of corn in a field, behind that which I will find favor. » 

She gets up, takes the initiative to go to work, she is determined to accomplish a difficult task. And for that, she goes through the first step: asking her stepmother for approval. This again shows that Ruth has respect and submission towards her mother-in-law, her beautiful family and for the customs of the Israelite people. Ruth is ready to serve, to work to feed her stepmother.

These values ​​are important in order to participate in divine providence.

In chapter 1, Ruth was converted to God and chapter 2 shows the continuity and the fruit of her conversion.

Verse 3 stems from the benevolent providence of God who brings her to a field which belongs to Boaz! But what a coincidence (luck with a capital L like Lord)!

Boaz is an example of how we must react with the most disadvantaged, he questions himself, he asks who this young woman works for. He does not remain indifferent, he is an example for us because it is a sin to be indifferent to the poor. Yes, indifference is a sin!

Like Boaz we can perceive the people whom God has put around us to take care of them in difficult times.

When reading the text, at a first glance, we say to ourselves that it is Ruth who puts herself at the service of Boaz, it’s true, but, in fact, Boaz also puts himself at the service of Ruth, it’s not only in one direction! The service is mutual.

As we do our part in the service, even if we do not understand what God is doing, we will see the providence of God. It is a source of motivation to persevere!

Boaz is benevolent, he blesses whenever he has the chance, he has blessed the reapers, now he blesses Ruth,

V7 to 9 The servant in charge of watching over the reapers relates the motivation, courage and perseverance of Ruth to Boaz

The work of cohesion between Boaz and his servants serves the providence of God!

Boaz sees her motivation and lets her work in his fields!

He even goes so far as to forbid his servants to touch her, he allows this vulnerable woman, Ruth to be left to work in peace.

Boaz even wants to keep her in his field by telling her to go and work with his maids. Ruth’s motivation for the harvest certainly encouraged him.

He even gives her access to the water that his servants have drawn, he makes her beneficiary of the work of others!

This is wonderful for Ruth, she falls face down on the ground, prostrating herself saying

« How did I find favor in your eyes for you to be interested in me, a stranger? » 

Boaz shows that God (as in 1 John) in his providence, was interested in us, strangers to his people, poor sinners, he blessed us with all spiritual blessings.

God reveals himself through people and we can be his providential instrument by living in obedience to God.

Ruth at this point was hoping that she could harvest just to eat.

She was a woman, a foreigner moreover, her only « destiny » was to be lost in a foreign country but she went beyond what is said about women and what is said about foreigners. She counted on God and his providence. When fate seems to be working against us, it is profitable for us to count on his holy providence.

In v12 Boaz recognizes the work and perseverance of Ruth, he says « May the Lord restore you for what you have done » and your reward be full from the Lord, the God of Israel, under the wings from which you have come to take refuge.  In v14, Boaz invites Ruth to eat with the whole harvest team. She’s not just a temp who came to work for a day, Boaz doesn’t just see Ruth as cheap labor, he goes above and beyond by making her part of his business, blessing her more.

Boaz blessed her for what she did, he knows that he is a participant and that he has his personal responsibility in the providential blessing.

This text manifests the ethics of compassion which is lived in deed and in truth. Compassion has a primordial place in God’s providence because it is out of compassion that God takes care of us and arranges all things for our good.

This chapter is a source of hope for us because it shows that Ruth’s misery is coming to an end. Ruth has hope that her misery will end, she hopes in the providence of God because she knows that this God that she did not know before, provides all things!

Faced with the difficult circumstances of life we ​​have two choices:

The first choice is to be angry with God, even if we believe in him, we can distance ourselves from him.

Naomi is disheartened by the death of her husband and two sons, which is not necessarily an anomaly. The anomaly is to persevere in discouragement, in the circumstances of discouragement.  The second choice (which I recommend) is to take refuge in the arms of God, our Father who holds the world in his hands. To grow in confidence in him.

God uses bad circumstances and makes them beneficial for his glory.

The proof is Ruth, she is a foreigner, poor, unemployed, her only activity, according to society, was to engage in prostitution, which she did not do. She is a vulnerable person, as is the presence of vulnerable women here in our neighborhood.

God, in his providence, is above bad circumstances because he anticipated them by meditating on good as he did with Joseph when he was sold by his brothers because they were jealous of him, he was clearly his father’s favorite son.

His father was wrong to manifest favoritism and it made Joseph’s brothers sin.

But Joseph, who in the meantime became governor of Egypt, nothing less! Egypt at that time was the economic omnipotence, like the United States and China today.

Joseph sees his brothers again in Genesis 45, he says to them “GOD sent me here before you to allow you to subsist in the country and to make you live by granting a great deliverance. So it was not you who sent me here, it was God”

This passage shows how God is above evil, even under the most miserable circumstances, he supports all things with his mighty hand as Hebrews 1: 3 says.

And when Joseph’s brothers come and throw themselves at Joseph’s feet, Joseph says that when they meditated on evil, with God it was good and it ended well.

Providence does not mean that only good happens to those who love God, but that even evil works for the good of those who love him.

This text illustrates this as God gives more than expected to Ruth.

3) it bears fruit (v15-23)

Leviticus 25:35 says look after the needs of the needy, Boaz applies this law perfectly concerning Ruth.

Boaz is an example in terms of obedience to God because he obeys Leviticus 19: 9 

When you harvest in your land, you will leave a corner of your field without reaping it, and you will not pick up what remains to be gleaned.  Neither shall you pick up the grapes that are left in your vineyard, nor pick up any seed that is fallen from them. You will leave it to the poor and to the stranger. I am the Lord your God.

Boaz goes beyond the law because he gives Ruth even more than she harvested by telling his workers to harvest and to give it to her and insists on doing her no harm. . Ruth receives beyond what she has seen and done with her hands.

Boaz is a gentleman who knows how to take care of vulnerable women.

What we receive from God through his providence does not stop at what our eyes see, when we serve, we must aim for the invisible, hope in what we do not see! Because God is invisible and we can hope in him.

In these verses, Boaz blesses Ruth’s work anonymously and, he does it with humility, without showing off!

Boaz, like God, shows his love by valuing poor and vulnerable people. In verse 16, he uses his power to protect Ruth from the harsh working conditions.

We really need to be sensitive to the ways God provides because our great God is amazing.

God doesn’t provide only with money, God provides in other ways, he provides through the people around us, through the fertile soil that he has created and that he asks us to cultivate, that is to say through our work. If God has given us hands, it is to work and it is by the grace of God that we have hands. Otherwise we would be handicapped and if we had no hands, we would be bored.

It is not by our own sovereignty, nor by our own merit that we have results in our work, it is only and only because God grants us the grace to work.

God gives us tools, spiritual gifts to get results, do we grasp those tools and apply our gifts? Do we use them to serve others?

God encourages us to be active, he calls us to enter into the harvest by allowing us to participate in his work.

The providence of God in this text shows that God does not only want us to work to occupy a place but also to accomplish a spiritual work by serving our colleagues.

God, through Boaz, by his mercy, goodness and love, gives beyond what Ruth imagined, what she needed at that moment, she receives 22 liters of barley while fleeing the famine…

At the time, people ate more barley than we did, God fed Ruth and her mother-in-law for several weeks.

So when Ruth returns to Naomi, Naomi is amazed at the result! And as soon as she finds out that it is Boaz who blessed Ruth, she continues by talking about the right of redemption to which the next of kin is entitled. In addition to providing for her, God was able to provide a future husband!

God in his providence blessed Naomi because she has Ruth who watches over her! The greatest blessing in itself is that God watches over us but also he puts people around us who watch over us, who are participants in his benevolent providence.

When we put our trust in God, put him first in our lives, his blessings are noticeable, and the blessing of this text is the immense harvest of Ruth!

The providence of God is redemptive, it saves!

And God in his providence predicted that the Redeemer would come!

4 Jesus the servant

Jesus is the ruler of the harvest, the reaper in his field and the giver of the result.

As verses 22-23 show, it is good to stay in the field in which God places us in order to persevere in it as Ruth does.

He is the Almighty God who came to serve and not to be served, to lay down his life for us so that we can reap the fruits of the Spirit! He has taken care of widows, orphans, harlots, all of the vulnerable and being the body of Christ, he makes us part of it.

This passage points to a fruitful future, to rejoicing in the grace of God.

The providence of God is the greatest of blessings and the greatest of blessings is Eternal Life!

The providence of God is the road for us towards Eternal Life!

In his providence, God predestined Jesus before the foundation of the world to show him to us!

The whole Gospel is expressed in the providence of God!

Providence shows that God does not just decree what happens or not but he accomplishes it by directing all things, he makes sure that it is done for our good because everything works together for the good of those who love God.

The providence of God, anticipates evil, Ruth suffers the consequences of the sins of Israel which aroused the judgment of God which brought a famine which ultimately organizes the elements of ‘luck’, God his meeting with Boaz.  Like Boaz do we perceive the people that God has put around us to take care of us in difficult times of discouragement?

Are we ready to obey God’s will? to dare to take the plunge like Ruth did?

Are we disposed so that God can use us to take care of the vulnerable, the strangers who are in need? We have our part in God’s providential plan.

As Jesus says, each day suffices its pain.

God in his grace, gives beyond our hopes, he gives beyond our immediate needs, beyond what our eyes see, he anticipates in the invisible, that is why we can walk by faith!