What It Takes To Change a Life

Text: Ruth 4

Proposition: God changes lives partly because they are broken but mostly so that they can now begin life that reflects Him, a changed life!

Introduction: Imagine if you will that you are pilot flying along in your airplane and all of a sudden you hear the air traffic controllers’ voice in your ear phones telling you that they have just discovered a terrible mistake. The mechanic that just serviced your plane put in the wrong oil and it’s a matter of minutes before the engine quits. What started out as a well planned day and an enjoyable trip has become a place of urgency, nervous fear and a quick revision of plan to see where you can land safely. A change of plan, a change of destination, a change of process in how to get there… our lives can change so very quickly. You have doubtless heard of Amanda Lindhout and that she has recently been released by her kidnapers. In her phone interview from the hotel room in Mogadishu she said this: “I’m not the same person I was anymore, I’ve changed.” It was a personal observation and yet a also a cue to all who know her that the change is deep, unpredictable and will change her plans, her destination and even the process for getting there. I was in the food bank here in town talking to the Ron and Irene, the people who help make it all work. As they told me their story it was one where ruin and pain and disaster overwhelmed their lives and then this incredible thing happened, because of Jesus their life changed. Once their stress and daily concerns were overwhelming and next moment they “stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene…”. What does it take to change a life? As I listened to their story and the belief they have in the providence of God I could only comment to Ron that so many of the stories in the Bible that depict changed lives have these same pieces. The story of Joseph, Moses, Abraham, David, Daniel, Esther, Sarah, Ruth, they are powerful stories of how people went through a life threatening crisis of some sort and then discovered how their lives were changed as they trusted all to God. We’ve been reading through the Book of Ruth this last month and we’d have to agree that this is a story about the lives of two women whose lives were changed in so many ways. And not just their lives, as is so often the case when one person’s life is changed it will have impact on those near them. Let’s consider these points of comparison in the ancient story of Ruth, chapter 4.

I. “Now Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there…”   CRISIS.                        The reason that Boaz is sitting at the city gate is because there has been a crisis… three deaths of a husband and his two sons… their widows have no food to eat, no work in sight, one was old and the other a foreigner, they were newcomers, they had no skills, no land, no family. There was poverty, guilt, fear and shame. In Chinese there are two symbols that put together are translated crisis, , the symbol ‘wei’ means danger and next to it the symbol ‘ji’ means crucial point or opportunity, together they are translated ‘crisis’,  If you think back through the lives of people who have  experienced a changed life, a life that has begun to look up rather than down because of Jesus Christ, often there is the presence of some sort of crisis, even some sort of death. The physical death of a person, the death of a life dream or hope, the death of who you once were perhaps, even as Christians we see the death to self as the place where God now begins the process of change and the opening up of that new life in us.

There are some crucial points in crisis when we or others recognize the situation, we see the poor, the lost, the foreigner who is alone, the elderly, the hungry, when we see and know that now is the time to act. In near Eastern culture the city gate was where wisdom and justice were dispensed by the elders of the city. It was a place where ‘peace’ was meant to be generated, where crisis was responded to. That’s why Boaz went and sat down at the gate, he was there to deal with a particular crisis and the outcome would change the lives of many people, even a decade away, even a century away. What you do today to respond to crisis, whether it is one you are facing or one you see others being challenged by, see it not only as a danger but also a crucial point of turning. See it as something that not only changes living conditions and your quality of life, but even will be used by God to change the lives of those ten years from now, even a hundred years from now. What you do today matters far beyond your life time. Do you believe that? Where or who is that ‘city gate’ for the people of today? Is that meant to be the church? Crisis is often the place where God catches our attention, where we cry out to Him, where we agree with Him that it’s time to change. Crisis is met at the ‘city gate’ is where God changes lives.

II. So Boaz said, “Come aside friend, sit down here”…     ADVOCATE          We talked about the kinsman redeemer role a couple of weeks ago and recognized the obligation of such a distant relative help restore land, bring justice, restore the honor of the father’s name. Boaz was the kinsman redeemer for Ruth and Naomi, he was their Advocate. Author Hugh Halter says, “advocacy is different from empathy, empathy can be shown from a distance…through a card or phone call. But to advocate for someone means you are with them in their need, and you must speak and act on their behalf because they can’t…”. I think that accurately represents the position of Naomi and Ruth, don’t you?

The strategy that Boaz uses is quite risky. You see Boaz wants to marry Ruth but to be eligible he must let the closer relative first decline the role of being kinsman redeemer. So he basically catches the closer relative off guard by asking him to sit with him in the gate as he was coming into the city. Then he has ten elders listen into the conversation. He points out that there is land to be acquired if he will just pay off the ‘mortgage’ that is in the Elimelech family name… is he willing to do that? Well the closer relative quickly senses an opportunity for wealth and says that he will redeem the land. Boaz then points out that a secondary part of the agreement is that he must marry Ruth, a Moabitess, that is a stranger from another country. She’s part of the deal. Now don’t forget that Boaz loves Ruth and is at this moment leaving a huge opening for another man to take her away from him. It’s a huge risk but one that Boaz has taken knowing the character and situation of the other closer relative. You know how the story goes, the closer relative suddenly reverses himself, even though the land is attractive the idea of marrying Ruth, of creating new heirs in his family, let alone what his wife will say when he cries out, “Honey I’m home and there’s someone I want you to meet…”, it’s all too much. Though it is the way we hoped that the story would go, to turn down the responsibility to be an Advocate, a Kinsman Redeemer, was seen as a failure of national duty. The obvious consequence is that we don’t even know this man’s name, he has become invisible by being unwilling. But Boaz is willing, he comes so close to the situation that it will either cost him the love of his life as Ruth marries another or it will cost him great wealth as he purchases back the land. A kinsman redeemer had to have the right to redeem, the will to redeem and the ability to redeem. He was in these ways an equipped advocate that would be used by God to change people’s lives. What Boaz did as a kinsman redeemer and Advocate is a picture of who Jesus is.

Did Jesus as the sinless Son of God have the right redeem us, Yes. Did Jesus have the will to redeem us, to become man, to incarnate and thus to be able to experience death? Yes. Was Jesus able to redeem us from the price of sin, even from the wrath of God? Yes. Being God Himself and yet incarnated as a man Jesus was able to pay that price as our Redeemer and Advocate. Do you think that the strategy that Jesus used to secure His bride was a risky one? The bride of Jesus is the church, but was it a safe idea to let 12 men who were mostly poor and some even outcasts, one a traitor…to let these be the ones that He would build His strategy around? God is not always safe, but He is glorious and perfect and holy in all He does. He even uses you and I as part of His strategy to create the church and to build His kingdom and to reflect the truth of Who He is. That’s glorious!

God has a perfect strategy for changing the lives of people, sometimes He takes us by surprise like Boaz did to the closer relative. Always He does it in the presence of many witnesses, even heavenly witnesses. Remember the words of Micah 6:8,   “ He has shown you O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”  But greater than all these, the love of Boaz for Ruth as he did the work of an Advocate is but a tiny reflection of the love of Jesus Christ for you as He works in crisis, using perfect strategy, paying great price, bringing great freedom, changing your identity to one who belongs to Him, doing all in the presence of many witnesses, making your life fruitful, in short… changing your life.



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