Better Is One Day
Text: Ruth 2
Proposition: Faithfulness that has humility, diligence, thankfulness and generosity is that which stirs the heart of God and which He uses to glorify Himself.
Introduction: Last week we looked at an amazing story about the faithfulness of a young Moabite woman named Ruth. She and her mother in law Naomi had both become widows and hearing that the famine in Israel was over they left Moab by the eastern shores of the Dead Sea and made their way to Bethlehem, Naomi’s hometown. But Ruth was a Moabite, it was her people who fought against Israel for 20 years during the time of the Judges. Knowing this, Ruth still chooses to go Bethlehem and to lay down her life in support of her mother in law. The land of Israel had fallen into ruin, famine had occurred in the land as God’s judgment upon them. The story of Ruth is a stark contrast between the faithfulness of a young Moabite woman and the faithlessness of the nation of Israel. It describes the way that she is lifted out of abject poverty by a gracious master. It describes the responsibility that we all have to work and to care for others and that often it is this very thing that God uses to direct our lives. So you could say that Ruth is a love story that is built around the tensions of work and grace. Though she did not deserve the favor of Boaz, she was responsible to work, survival depended on it and grace would not just come on a silver platter. So let’s look at this next chapter in Ruth and consider the tension between our responsibility to work and the ways of God’s grace.
I. Begin, Even If You Can’t See the Ending, Work Depends Upon Grace. V1-7 Sometimes life can seem to almost paralyze us because we can’t see all the details and we want to be sure that what we’re doing is the right thing. In the case of Ruth and Naomi, two widows in Bethlehem, there wasn’t much resource, Naomi was old and Ruth was a foreigner. So she comes to her mother in law and says in effect, ‘I’ll go out and walk into a field and I’ll trust that whoever owns that field will look upon me with favor.’ Work depends upon grace. She goes out and sees a group of young women reaping the grain and she follows after them picking up what they’ve dropped. I like the way that this is worded, “and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.” Not only did she happen to come to a good place, it turns out it is the very field that belongs to a wealthy relative of Naomi’s deceased husband. Interesting word, ‘happen’, I don’t things just happen, to take that view would be to say that God just steps back and lets the world go whichever way it will and only steps in for the big stuff. The sovereignty of God is always over the issues and details of our lives even when we make bad choices, even when the bad choices of others affect us, even when the enemy of our souls Satan is permitted his interim purposes. So when she happened to come upon the field of Boaz I would call that an act of grace, it’s not just the chance of being in the right place or to finding the right person. The wonderful thing about God’s grace is that it is always greater than what we expect. Not only does she arrive in the field of Boaz by grace, Boaz himself rides up and sees her just at that time. Not only does he see this strangely dressed young woman, obviously not an Israelite, but he hears of her loyalty to Naomi in coming to this new place. The work of Ruth in caring for Naomi becomes a key for why Boaz would extend grace to Ruth. What began as a simple work of love for Naomi, a beginning that she couldn’t see the end of, becomes the avenue of God’s grace to her. So work looks forward to and even hopes for grace, it depends upon grace. You see, these are the two components that make up faithfulness, work and grace. As you read Ruth’s story the trait that sticks out more and more is that she is incredibly faithful to Naomi. Work that depends on grace is what that faithfulness is built on. Can it be any different in our lives, if we will be faithful to God, to marriage, faithful to our children, faithful to an employer, faithful even to friends it will demand work that depends upon grace. If our expectation is that it shouldn’t be a work in progress, that it should be good all the time, then there is no need for grace. Was the life of Jesus characterized by this very work that depends upon grace? It was this that we see in all the work He did, a dependence upon grace that we call that faith. Work that depends upon grace is pleasing to God, it is faith in action.
II. Learn How to Stay Where Grace Has Led You, the Stewardship of Grace. In verses 8 to 16 the truth that emerges is that whether you are the one who extends grace or whether you are the one who receives grace, in either situation it is meant to be something you are responsible to manage. In Ruth’s case the grace of God had led her to this field and this man. He was inviting her to stay under his care, to go with his hired workers, to only have eyes for the work he had for her. He was inviting her to trust him, he had told the young men not to harass her, he had set out water for her and even food. The protection of Boaz can only be understood as a great gift of grace to Ruth. Here’s the catch, she was to be a steward of it, to be thankful, yes, but to know that there was more going on here than just someone being nice to her. The stewardship of grace demands humility, it recognizes that grace wasn’t earned. What’s earned is called wages, the good that is undeserved is called grace. 1 Peter 5:5-7 says, “…and be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” So humility is like clothing, it will not only protect you, it ought to be a good fit! You remember the images of the little boy trying on his dad’s shoes, he stumbles in them but wants to be the man who regularly wears them. Perhaps a Biblical image is the picture of David when he went to fight Goliath. Remember how he tried on Saul’s armor but it was too big and clumsy for him so he took it off and went with that which really fit him. That was humility, it was a confidence in God that he could cast all his care upon Him, for He cares for you. Where do you think David learned that kind of humility? It was from his father Jesse, yes, but also from his great grandmother Ruth. The stewardship of grace demands humility. Then there’s Boaz, the one who is the giver of grace and yet the same principle of stewardship applies here. Look at what he says in verse12, “The Lord repay your work and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel under whose wings you have come for refuge.” Boaz knew that the good he was offering Ruth was not from his hand, it came because God had given it to him to give to others. It was evident to both Ruth and Boaz that grace was being offered but the reason it was there was not just to meet needs or to give of your goods, it was so that Ruth would stay where the grace of God had led her. Too often we experience God’s grace and then leave before He has accomplished all that He had intended. This too is part of the stewardship of grace.
III. Finish What You Start, the Direction of Grace is Revealed. Vs 17-23 So Ruth works all day and then come evening, as the sun begins to set, she then takes the barley sheaves and patiently beats the heads on the ground. In the end she has about half a bushel of grain but it has taken her the entire day to get here. I suppose two things come to mind. 1. What a difference a day makes. She had gone out with nothing, not even knowing where she was going. In one day she had enough food to last for a week and had found hope and a place to belong. What a difference a day makes when God is in it. Better is one day in His courts than thousands elsewhere! 2. The importance of finishing what you start. How many half read books, half painted pictures, half knit socks, half built engines or half raised kids are out there? Finishing well means taking the extra effort to not loose what grace has carefully placed in your hands. Ruth carries the grain to her mother in law who must have been surprised if not amazed at the grace that had been bestowed them. Ahh, but grace always has a direction. Grace is never an end in itself as if the good thing done is just a random act of kindness. As Naomi asks Ruth how her day went she suddenly hears Ruth mention a name that she had long forgotten, the name of Boaz. In an instant the goodness of Boaz’s grace is translated into the goodness of the Lord. Previously Naomi called herself, ‘Bitter’ or ‘Mara’, previously she had seen herself as afflicted by the Lord, forgotten. The direction of grace is that it turns our hearts to see the truth of Who He is. Like a curtain pulled back, grace reveals to us what we had previously known but forgotten and now it connects the dots of forgiveness and hope and faith. Grace points us in the direction of the Kinsman Redeemer, the one who not only gives us our daily bread, leads us not into temptation and delivers us from evil, but He also redeems our very lives from sin. Boaz is meant to be a picture of our great Kinsman Redeemer, Jesus Christ, by His grace we are directed to eternal life!