How God Builds a Beautiful Life
Ruth 1:14 to 2:23
March 13-14, 2021
I mentioned that it's one of the most beautiful stories in the Old Testament, and it has several aspects to the story. For example, it is actually a book that is prophetic because it pictures for us our redemption that comes through Jesus Christ, our redeemer. In the story, Ruth is going to be a picture of the church. Boaz is a picture of our redeemer. Naomi is a picture of Israel. There's a lot of depth through the prophetic aspect of the story, but it's also a love story, which is one of the reasons we love it. Not only is it a love story, it's a literary classic.
Students of literature all over the world study it because it is so beautifully written in prose, in poetry, but it's not just a love story between Ruth and Boaz. I suggest that it's a love story that God wants you to receive from him to you. He is reaching out with His heart through this story. Now, there's another aspect to this. The story of Ruth and Boaz reveals a deeper truth of how God constructs or builds a beautiful life. Now, we know God's heart is to pour His favor and His blessing on those who believe in Him, who walk in His ways.
How does God by His sovereign hand move in such a way that He constructs a life that is beautiful and honoring to Himself? The answer is found in this book. Now, let's give a little bit of the historical backdrop because you might be wondering, why is the book of Ruth right where it is here in the bible? Why is it right next to the book of Judges? Actually, that's on purpose because it takes place during the time of the judges, which is a very important thing to know.
You might remember because we've been looking at this that the time of the judges was a very difficult dark time in the history of Israel. It told us that when Joshua was leading Israel, they did well. They followed the Lord fully. Then when that generation of leaders passed and the next generation arose after them, they didn't know the Lord. They didn't follow the Lord. Then predictably, trouble upon trouble upon trouble. They went after the gods of the world, turned their back on God, and all the troubles then arose.
Here's the thing, somebody might say, "Well, how is it possible that one of the most beautiful stories out of the bible comes during one of the most darkest time when people are turning their back on God?" Now, that's a great question. The answer is this, God always has a remnant. There will always be, if even only a few who hold fast to faith in God, even when others are turning their back. You know the words of Joshua still ring true today.
Remember the words that Joshua gave when he challenged Israel at the end of his life. He gathered all of Israel together and he said, "Now, choose you this day who you will serve." Which is to say, each man is going to have to choose for himself how he's going to live his life. "Choose for yourself whom you will serve," but then he adds that powerful thing. "But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." We made our mind. You choose how you're going to live because God always has a remnant.
I tell you, we are living in times today very much like in the times of the judges, which is to say, there are many today that are turning their back on God, doing what's right in their own eyes. That's the theme. Even today. Even though there are so many who turn their back to God. Even today, God has a remnant. God has those who still hold fast because they know and they believe that God is able to bless. I say with Joshua, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. It's a life lesson.
Each person is going to have to decide how they're going to live. Some do what's right in their own eyes and live with their back turned toward God. Others choose God and will walk with him in the course of their life. Those who do will come to discover that God is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Not only is He a rewarder of those who seek him, he is the one who builds. He constructs. He takes faith and character and He constructs by His sovereign hand, that which is beautiful and honorable in a person's life.
Let's read it. We're in Ruth chapter 1. The backstory tells us in Chapter 1:1, "It came about in the days of the judges, " we know right when it was, "That there was a famine in the land. Now, there was a certain man of Bethlehem--" The name of this town, which is very near to Jerusalem, by the way, it has a particular meaning. That's important. Bethlehem is Hebrew. It means, Beth-Lehem, house of bread. In the house of bread, there's a famine. A certain man, we know his name, Elimelech, Eli-Melech.
It means my God is king. He, in this famine, took his wife and their two sons and they left the house of bread. They left Bethlehem and went to the other side of the Jordan. They went over to Moab. Now, the name of these two sons, by the way, are interesting. They named their sons Mahlon and Chilion. Now, that has meaning in the Hebrew. The name Mahlon means sickly. Now, times are bad when you name your son sickly. Well, the other one, Chilion, his name meant pining away or weak one. In other words, they named their boys sick and tired.
Things are bad when you start naming your sons sick and tired. They sell their land, make a new start. They go to Moab on the other side of the Jordan, but there tragedy strikes. Elimelech dies. Now, Naomi is bereft of her husband. Then it says that the two boys, Mahlon and Chilion, marry two Moabite women. We know their names. Orpah and Ruth. You might say, "Well, that's Orpah. That sounds like Oprah, the modern TV personality." Well, you would be right.
Actually, modern Oprah was named after this bible character. It's hard to say and they mixed the letters, and so she just went by Oprah. That means nothing to the story, but I thought I'd mention it. They marry Ruth and Orpah. Then tragedy further strikes when her two sons, sick and tired, die. Of course, we can't make light of it because it's a tragedy. She has lost now her husband and her two sons. She says to Ruth and Orpah, "I have nothing here. I'm going back to Israel. I have nothing here."
Then she says, "Go home," to Ruth and Orpah, "Go home. Go to your mother's house. Find a new husband. Build a new life. Go." That's where we pick up the story in Ruth 1:14. "When they heard this, they lifted up their voices and they wept. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law," which is to say she kissed her goodbye. She left. She built her own life. Ruth, and here's where we begin to see, Ruth is a woman of character.
She is amazing in her character. She clung to Naomi, her mother-in-law. Naomi verse 15 says, "Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. Go return after your sister-in-law. Ruth said, 'Do not urge me to leave you or to turn back from following you."' Then she gives this speech that's one of the most powerful, inspiring speeches because you see her heart beautifully come through. She's not going to leave her mother-in-law.
She says, "No. Don't urge me to turn back. For where you go, I will go. Where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people will be my people. I will become Hebrew. Your God will be my God. I will take the God of Israel into my life. Where you die, I will die and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord--" She uses here the name of the God of Israel, Yahweh, Jehovah. "Thus may the Lord do to me in worse of anything but death parts you and me. Well, when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more of this matter." "They both went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came about that when they had come to Bethlehem, that all of the city was stirred because of them. And the women said, 'Is that Naomi?"' She'd been gone 10 years, but she probably looked like she'd been gone 30. Something has happened. It's been a hard life. Is this Naomi? "And she said to them, 'Don't call me that. Don't call me Naomi.'" Names have meanings in Hebrew and it's important. Name Naomi means pleasantness, her mother names through pleasantness. "Don't call me that. Call me Mara," which means bitter.
Oh, life has been hard. Don't call me Naomi, call me bitter, because the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. You can see it right away, she's blaming God for this. "I went out full, but the Lord has brought me back empty, so don't call me Naomi, since the Lord has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me." Many, by the way, feel this, when things are difficult, when life gets hard, they blame God. God never asked them to go to Moab. They didn't pray, they didn't ask God's leading.
Then when life gets hard, they blame God and people do this today. They leave the will of God and they pursue something else, and then when times get difficult, they blame God. "Naomi therefore returned and with her, Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, who returned from the land of Moab. They came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest," which is the first harvest in the spring. Chapter 2:1. "Now, Naomi had a kinsman of her husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech," that was her husband.
"His name is Boaz. Ruth the Moabitess then said to Naomi, 'Please, let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after one in whose sight I might find favor.'" This was a provision of the Law of Moses in Israel that the farmers were to allow gleaning. This was a provision for those in poverty. They would round off the corners, so that those in poverty can have some food. They would only harvest one main harvest and the second or third remaining would go for the poor.
Really beautiful provision. They didn't have social services. They had this. "Let me go and glean." Naomi says, "Yes, go, my daughter." "She departed and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers and it just so happened," I love that phrase. "It just so happened that she came to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech." It just so happened. "Now, behold, Boaz, he came out from Bethlehem." No doubt where he was lodging, "And he said to his workers," his reapers.
Notice his greeting, "May the Lord be with you." He's using the name of the God of Israel. Therefore, we know he's of the remnant. He's holding on to faith and he uses the name of the God of Israel. "May the Lord Yahweh be with you." They reply back to him, "May the Lord bless you, sir." That's beautiful. "Then Boaz said to his servant, who is in charge of the workers, the reapers, 'Whose young woman is this?'" In other words, "I know the people. I've never seen this woman. Who is this woman?"
"The servant in charge of the reapers answered and said, 'This is that young Moabite woman who came and returned with Naomi from the land of Moab. She said to us, "Please let me glean and gather after the reapers, among the sheaves." Thus she came and has remained from the morning, she started early and she's remained until now. She's been sitting in the house for a little while.'" It's in the heat of the day. Boaz comes up to Ruth.
This is what he says to her, "Listen carefully, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field. Furthermore, do not go on from this one, but stay here with my maids. Let your eyes be on the field which they reap and go after them. Indeed, I have commanded the servants not to touch you. And when you are thirsty, go to the water jars and drink from what the servants draw. So she fell on her face, bowed to the ground, she said, 'Why have I found such favor in your sight that you should take notice of me since I am a foreigner?"'
"So, Boaz answered and he said, 'All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me. And how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth and you came to a people that you did not previously know. May the Lord reward your work, may your wages be full from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.'" This is a powerful speech.
"Then she said, 'I have found favor in your site, sir, my lord, for you have comforted me and indeed you have spoken kindly to your maidservant, even though I'm not like one of your maidservants.' So, at mealtime, Boaz then said to her, draw nearer, come near, that you may eat of the bread and dip your piece of bread into the vinegar," which would have been so good and so satisfying. "So, he sat by the reapers, and then he served her roasted grain," which is really good if you have never tasted it.
"And so she ate and was satisfied and even had some left, which he saved for Naomi. When she rose to glean, Boaz then commanded his servants and he said, 'Let her glean even among the sheaves and do not insult her.'" Which is to say, don't correct her. Verse 16. I love Verse 16. '"You also shall take out handfuls on purpose.'" "Handfuls on purpose," it says in the King James. I love that. '"From the grain, from the bundles, leave that so that she may glean it. Don't rebuke her for that."'
"So she gleaned in the field until evening, then she beat out what she had gleaned and it was an ephah of flour." This is like 50 pounds. "So she took it up and went into the city. And her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also took out and gave Naomi what she had from lunch after she was satisfied. Her mother-in-law then said to her, 'Where did you glean today? Where did you work today? And may he who took notice of you be blessed.' So, she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked. And she said, 'The name of the man with whom I worked today is Boaz."'
Immediately, Naomi knew that name. Her face would have lit up. "Naomi said to her daughter, 'May he be blessed of the Lord, who has not withdrawn his kindness to the living and to the dead.'" That's a deep word, we'll get into that later. "Again, Naomi said to her, 'This man is a relative. He is one of our closest relatives.'" Here she uses a word in the Hebrew, it's important, "He is a Goel, a redeemer of our family." This is a deep word, we'll see it's meaning. "Ruth the Moabitess said--" Oh, one more thing.
"Furthermore, he said, 'You should stay close to my servants until they finished all my harvest.' So, Naomi said to Ruth, her daughter-in-law, 'This is good, my daughter, that you go out with his maids, less others fall upon you in another field.' So she stayed close by the maids of Boaz in order to glean until the end of the barley harvest and the wheat harvest," which is at the end of the season. "And then she lived with her mother-in-law." We'll look at the other chapters later. I want us to see these.
I. Nothing Just Happens
There is so much to apply, life lessons to take hold of, starting with this understanding, nothing just happens. Nothing just so happens. "Oh, she just so happened to come to the field of Boaz." Nothing just happens, including this famine. This is a famine. This is a difficult time, but Moses had given them a warning, in the Book of Deuteronomy, when he gave that famous speech to Israel before they entered into the land. He said, be very careful, do not turn your back on the God who has taken hold of you and that blessed you so amazingly. He has revealed himself so wondrously.
Be very careful. For if you turn your back and you go after the gods of the world and all the worldliness that it is, you will find life to be very hard for you. There will be famine that comes on the land because you know rain is an expression of God's blessing. Obviously, we're blessed in Oregon here. It's true. If you have no rain, what does the land become? You just got to go to Arizona or something and see what it becomes. It's dry, it's rock, it's dust, it's desert. When there's rain, there's abundance of blessing, and that's what he says. When there's famine, it doesn't just so happen. Nothing just happens. God will use such things to stir people up. God uses such things to draw them back. In other words, it didn't just happen, He's using it for the purpose of restoring. It happens during the time of the judges when people were doing what was right in their own eyes and went after the gods of the world. Then trouble upon trouble. God uses it because nothing just happens. Therefore, one of the great lessons from the story, stay faithful in difficult times, be part of the remnant that is faithful in difficult times.
A. Stay faithful in difficult times
Because of the famine, it says this man Elimelech left the house of bread and he went to live in the land of Moab with his wife and sons. He didn't pray, He didn't seek. God never asked him to go there. You don't leave the house of bread, even if it's difficult. God did not give Moab as a possession. He didn't give that as a place of blessing. Here's the life lesson. The grass is not greener on the other side of the Jordan. I've been to the other side of the Jordan and I can tell you, the grass is not greener over there.
This is the way many people believe, life is difficult. They've encountered turbulence. They think they're going to start, grass is greener somewhere else. They're going to go find some new thing. Don't leave the place of God's provision. Don't leave the place of God's will. Don't leave the place that God gave you to seek after something, because the grass is not greener over there. That's a life lesson. Don't walk away from God, stay faithful. If even a few, the remnant stays, they'll find the blessing of God.
Moab is not the land God gave, it's not the land of promise. In fact, it's a picture of the world. It's a picture of the world. "Oh, the grass is greener. This is how God spoke of Moab, we actually know how God thought of Moab. It's given to us in Psalm 60:7-8. Well, this is what God says "Gilead is mine. Manasseh is mine. Ephraim is the helmet of my head and Judah is my scepter but Moab, that's my washbowl. And over Edom, I will throw my shoe." We know what God thought.
Yes, life was difficult in the house of bread, in Bethlehem, but stepping out of God's will and trying to pursue greener pastures is not the way to ease your life. It's the way of greater trouble. In fact, Naomi will discover that life in Bethlehem was not as bad as she thought. "I went out full, but I came back empty." It's a life lesson. There was a famine. Life was hard in Bethlehem, but she was still blessed. She had her husband and her two sons but then, she encountered more trouble than she could endure.
It's a perspective, isn't it? When you thank God, when you begin to recognize, maybe it's not so bad. There are blessings here. When you see it from the perspective of being thankful. It really does change your perspective and your heart. I tell you, when we lost our daughter, when she was killed and murdered, it was the tragedy of tragedies but what helped me so much was to be thankful for what I did have. Every day that I remembered having that time with her meant so much.
In fact, the night before she was killed, I was with her at Starbucks for like three hours just talking about life. Those are the most precious hours of my life now. Be thankful. Count your blessings. It changes your perspective. Naomi stayed 10 years in Moab, during that time her husband dies, her two sons die. All she has left are these two Moabites daughters-in-law, which is to say she was never satisfied in Moab. It's like the prodigal son going into the world with his inheritance. He'll never be satisfied. Finally, Naomi decided, there's nothing for me here.
She's going back to Bethlehem, to the house of bread. She's decided that in her father's house, there's more than enough bread. It reminds me of a hymn, old hymn we used to sing when I was young. I think the name of it is He Giveth More Grace. There's a line in it, I remember singing this song, it always catch me because it's such a powerful line. It says it this way, "And when we've come to the end of our hoarded resources," see right away that catches you. "When we've come to the end of our hoarded resources, He giveth and giveth and giveth again."
Just stay faithful. Keep walking with God, no matter how difficult it becomes because he promises he will be with you. He'll never leave you, He'll never forsake you. You stay in that place and you never know, yet God has much in store because here's what we recognize looking at the story of Naomi, don't allow your heart to become bitter.
B. Don’t allow your heart to become bitter
Life can be hard. There are many difficulties in this life but make sure of this, that you don't allow your heart to become bitter. It's very clear that she's bitter.
She says she is and she blames God for it. "The Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me." She's resigned herself to believe that God is against her. Many have this same view. God never asked them to go there. Yet they blame God when times are tough. We have the advantage. We have the book, we can read, we can see from God's view. God was doing a great work, she couldn't see it. God was going to bless her beyond her imaginations. She couldn't see it.
I suggest that bitterness blinds people. They can't see. If someone is blaming God, it's very hard to trust them. Would you not agree? When someone's blaming God for their troubles, it's very hard to trust God. She had no idea, God was going to abundantly bless her. Let me give you a great verse that shows you this perspective. Psalm 127:2, I love this song. "It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labor's, for it is He who gives to His beloved even while he sleeps."
In other words, you have no idea. God has so much blessing in mind. Her bitterness had blinded her. God, in fact, here's a great truth. here's a right perspective. Romans 8:28, "We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Would you notice something? It's a very famous verse but would you notice something? God does not say there that God causes all things to be good. It's not what he said.
It means that God causes all things to work together, for good and for His glory. It may even mean going through trouble, but God works all things together for good to those who love God. Maybe one of the great examples of this has to be the biblical story of Jonah. God had called this man Jonah to go, "I want you to go to the people of Nineveh and bring to them a word of repentance, and that's blessing that will follow." He wanted nothing to do with it. He's like, I'll go on the other direction. He goes down to Joppa, books passage on a ship heading the wrong way.
Immediately, they encounter a storm. A storm of epic proportions. Immediately, he knows God is using this to turn him around. God is using the storm even. See, nothing just happens. God is using all things. Here's the great part of the story, "God can use good character and good faith, and He by his sovereign hand, begins to take good character and good faith and construct a life that is honorable and beautiful." Here's my point. God takes character and builds.
II. God Takes Character and Builds
It's a beautiful part of the story. The storyline shifts from the hardship and bitterness of Naomi, to the character and faith of Ruth and Boaz. You see, Ruth's character so beautifully in the speech. "Do not ask me to leave you." She cannot leave her mother-in-law in despair, "No, where you go, I go, where you lodge, I lodge, your people are my people, your God is my God and where you die, I will die." Then we meet Boaz and his heart and character stand out on the pages of history.
Then, God, this we See, the sovereign hand of God begins to take the heart and character of Ruth and Boaz and begins to construct something. It's a principle of the Scriptures. You give God faith and character and he, by His sovereign hand will begin to construct something in your life, that is beautiful and honorable. You might say, "Well, what if somebody has a despicable aspect of their character?" Oh, God's sovereign hand will still move on that too. It's just that it will be of resistance and trouble. They will find themselves wrestling with God.
Those who wrestle with God usually do not win. Actually, they never win. When someone has faith and character, the sovereign hand of God takes that and begins to construct, that which is beautiful and honorable. It's a scriptural principle. I could give you many references but let me give you this one out of one of the parables that Jesus taught in the gospels, where he said that the word of God being sown abroad is like a farmer sowing his seed on different types of soils. He's expressing in this parable that there are different types of people.
There are different types of hearts. He says the word of God sown or the seed being sown on the hard path, yes, that's a person who's got a hard heart. They can receive nothing of God. They can receive nothing. Therefore, they will see that nothing will come because they have rejected with their whole heart, all that God has offered to them. Then he says, there's another type of heart. He says, where the ground is filled with rocks, the soil is not very deep, which is to say, there's no depth of heart, there's no depth of character or faith.
When the word of God is sown in a harder character like that, there's no depth. They receive the word of God, and they even receive it with joy, but as soon as difficulties arise, they're offended, and they produce nothing in their lives. Then he says, there's another type of heart or another soil of the heart that is filled with thorns and briers. He says, it's the one who hears the word of God, but then the worries of the world and the cares and the concerns and the pursuit of other things, and pursuit of riches and such, choke out the word and it produces nothing.
There is yet one more, the heart that receives with a good and honest heart. God can take a heart like that, begin with his sovereign hand to construct something that's beautiful and honorable. Notice Luke 8:15, "But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who heard the word, in an honest and good heart." See, faith matters, character matters, because that's what God can take and construct with. They take the word of God, they hold it fast, and then they bear fruit with perseverance.
A. Heart and character are blessed of God
It says in another place 30, 60, 100 fold even. Here's my point, heart and character are blessed of God. By his sovereign hand, he can take such and build and construct that which is beautiful and honorable. Ruth's kindness and grace are clearly seen in her heart care for Naomi. Then we see the character and heart of Boaz, even how he greets his workers, "May the Lord, God of Israel, may he be with you." Then, of course, we see they respond, "And may the Lord bless you, sir."
It's beautiful because what you can see right away, is that he has sown character into them. He has sown his faith and his character into them and he sees it coming back. It's a beautiful picture. Grace, he's been sowing his character of grace and faith. Grace is an aspect of character that God very much wants a believer to have. Let it be seen in the simplest things of life. Now, Boaz could have treated his men quite harshly. It was very common in that day for landowners to be very harsh with workers.
It's very hard to get a job in the time of famine. He could have been very harsh with them. Many were, but not Boaz. He's got heart, he's got character, he's got faith and he sows it and it comes back. Here's a great word, Colossians 4:6, "Let your speech always be with grace. The word that's key there is the word, always, which is to say, always. Let your speech always be with grace as those seasoned with salt. Salt makes things good. Salt makes a food taste pleasant. Then you will know how you should respond to each person.
Now, in the story of Ruth, you see this principle. Grace comes back to you. She has been sowing with her character and her faith, and it's coming back. You sow with your character and God's going to bless it, and it's going to come back to you. We all want to live in a world where there's love around us. We would love to live in a world where there's kindness around us, there's joy, there's peace. He says, "Yes, well then you sow that." You sow that in the lives of those around you, and you're going to reap it.
It's going to back to you. Let me give you a great word out of Luke 6:36-38, "Be merciful, just as your heavenly Father is merciful." In other words, this is an aspect that God want you to have in your character because that's the way God is. He is merciful and you're the recipient of that mercy. He says, "Then you be like that." You be merciful because your heavenly Father is merciful. Then notice this principle, "Give and it will be given to you. Sow with your character, it'll come back to you."
"They will pour into your lap, a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, for by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you in return." Ruth says to Boaz, "Why have I found this favor?" He says, "All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband, has been fully reported to me. Now, may the Lord reward your work, and may your wages be full from the Lord." God does that which is honorable and glorious and beautiful. In other words, grace is coming back to her.
She has sown and now she's reaping. It's like Matthew 5:7, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy." I was trying to think of an illustration in my own life. I remember many, many years ago now when the church was very, very young and there was a woman who was offended at me. I know this is rather shocking to even think that's possibly true, I know. What had happened was, she wanted some position and I didn't think she was qualified for it, and so she didn't get it and now she's offended, which confirmed that she wasn't qualified for it.
Then she tells her sister who lives in another state, and her sister decided to take up her case and send me a letter. I should have known there was trouble when I opened the letter and smoke came out of the letter.
Not really, but you get my point. I'm reading this letter and I can't believe it. I go, "Is this real? Really? You wrote this in a letter?" She writes, "You're not a pastor, you're a wolf in sheep's clothing." What? Your beloved pastor? Please. Oh, the whole thing, the whole letter is full of stuff like this. My first response was, "[roars] Hmmm. Me want write letter. You're not the only one who can write, I'm pretty good with words, you want to do this thing, me write letter."
Have you ever had the Holy Spirit just check you, you know what I'm saying by this? The Holy Spirit just check your heart. The Holy Spirit just check me right there, "You will do no such thing. What you will do is to write a letter of grace. It's not what I wanted in my flesh, I will tell you, but the Spirit compels, you will do no such thing, you will write a letter of grace." I sat down and I wrote out a letter that I thought was grace and I thought, "I better check." I was pretty upset, so I thought, "I'll check this."
I brought it to Matthew, Pastor Matthew, our associate and I said, "Would you read this letter and see if there's anything that's not gracious in it? Could you just highlight it with the yellow highlighter?" He said, "Sure." He came back to my office sometime later and handed me a yellow piece of paper. Oh really? He said, "It's not gracious."
I did it again and I came to him and he handed me a striped paper. I'm getting better. I said, "Would you just sit right here next to me, and if I type anything that lacks in grace, would you just check it?" I crafted and prayed, and crafted and prayed, and crafted a letter. Finally, it was done. I sent it off to the sister in the other state, but I made a copy. I sent it off to the original person that was offended with, a no, "I don't know what you had said to your sister, but I wanted you to know my response. I send this with love and grace."
Sometime later, my wife and I were out shopping somewhere. My wife was away from me a bit. I heard her voice, "Oh," so I came over there. There was the woman who was offended, who came up to my wife with tears in her face and hugged her. I came up and she, then with tears came to me and hugged me, and she says, "Thank you for that letter. I'm so sorry for what I said." I thought, "Oh, God, your way is so much better than mine. Your way is so much better than mine."
B. Live in the shadow of the Almighty
It comes back to me. Beautiful reconciliation that comes back to me, which is therefore a life lesson, live in the shadow of the Almighty. God will direct your steps. Live in the shadow of the Almighty. Boaz says to Ruth, "May your wages be full from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge." It's a powerful statement. When Elimelech and Naomi left Bethlehem, they went out from underneath the shadow of the Almighty.
I tell you, it's better to walk with God in the midst of difficulty, than it is to leave and to seek your own way without him. When Ruth and Naomi come back, they are dwelling under the wings of God and seeking refuge there. It's a great truth. Proverbs chapter 18:10, "The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous run," in times of trouble or difficulty, you run to the tower of the Lord, the presence of the Lord, and there you are saved. Psalm 91, I love this one, "He who dwells in the shelter of the most high will abide in the shadow of the Almighty."
How beautiful? To dwell in the shadow of the Almighty is to have his covering over your life, is to believe that God takes faith and character and heart and begins to construct something. When you live in the shadow of the Almighty, Oh, you see him constructing that which is good and honorable and beautiful in your life. "He who dwells in the shelter of the most high will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust." Then lastly, we'll close with this, God gives handfuls on purpose. I love this picture.
C. God gives handfuls on purpose
Boaz tells his workers, "Purposely, pull grain from the bundles, handfuls on purpose. Leave them for her to glean." He is a picture of Christ, of our redeemer. The picture here is God's desire to bless you as you walk on his purpose, in his purpose, in your life. "He will take out handfuls on purpose," he says. I love that phrase. Notice, it says the same thing in Jeremiah chapter 29:11, "For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare," which means good, "not for calamity to give you a future and a hope."
Here's the thing, if you knew the backstory to Jeremiah and the backstory of what was happening in Israel during the time of Jeremiah, that verse would amaze you. "Oh, I know the plans I have for you. Believe this." It was a difficult time in Israel. "Believe this. It's a plan for good, not for calamity to give you a future and a hope." Here's another one out of Romans chapter 8, "What then shall we say to these things if God is, for us, who could be against us?" Do you believe in the hand of God, do you believe that he is for you?
Then, he says, listen, "He who did not spare his own son but delivered him up or delivered him over for us all, how would he not also freely give us all things?" God has proven himself. That's the thing. God has demonstrated his great love when his son was sent to seek and to save that which was lost, to die on the cross as full payment of our sins, to bring us to himself, to redeem us from our sin, to give us a relationship to the everlasting Father. He's proven his love. Now, you could say, he gives handfuls on purpose, but you can also say that he gives handfuls for a purpose.
There's a purpose in what God is doing. There's a purpose in that favor that God pours out. This is a love story. Boaz gives handfuls on purpose and Ruth there sees his heart. This man, look at his kindness, his character. Boaz doesn't know it yet, but God has handfuls on purpose for him. This is the love story of God's heart toward you. God gives you handfuls on purpose to win your heart, to win your faith. I quoted the hymn. Can I quote from it more, because the words speak to it so beautifully?
"He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater. He sendeth more strength as our labors increase. To added afflictions, He added His mercy. To multiply trials, He multiplies peace. His love has no limits. His grace has no measure. His power no boundary known under men. For out of his infinite riches in Jesus, He giveth and giveth and giveth again." God has proved his love. God has proved his love. Will you abide in it, will you abide in the shadow of the Almighty, God delights to take faith and character and heart? By His sovereign hand, He will construct something.
He is the one who constructs a beautiful life that which is honorable. "Choose you this day," he says, "How you're going to live. Each one must decide. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Let's pray. Father, thank you for proving your love. You have won us over. God help us to see your sovereign hand that moves. How you construct that which is beautiful and honorable. You take faith and heart and character and construct by your sovereign hand. God, we trust you with our lives.
We desire to draw nearer to you, to dwell in the shadow of the Almighty, there, your hand moves. You have won us over and you are worthy. We give you thanks for it. Church, how many would say today, "God, I want to live my life in the shadow of the Almighty. You have won me. You have proven yourself to me. I'm asking, I want your hand, your sovereign hand, take hold of that which is in my life and construct something good and godly and honorable. I want you. I want to dwell in the shadow of the Almighty"?
How many would say that to the Lord, God delights to take authentic heart and faith and do something, construct something beautiful? Would you say to the Lord, "Here I am, Lord. construct something in me. Here's my life. I want to dwell in the shadow of the Almighty. I choose, no matter what happens in this crazy, broken-down world. I've made my mind? As for me, I choose to follow." Would you say that to the Lord by just simply raising your hand to the Lord?
Just let it be known to the Lord by raising your hand with a certain boldness, "I want it to be known. God, I choose your way, to dwell in the shadow of the Almighty. Construct something. Here I am, God, construct something beautiful and honorable in my life. I trust you now." In Jesus's powerful name and everyone said. Can we give the Lord praise and glory and honor. Amen.