Sunday Sermon Notes: July 25, 2021

Ruth 2

Chapter 2 begins with a statement:

Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, a man of standing from the clan of Elimelek, whose name was Boaz. (2:1)

This verse seems to come out of left field; it interrupts the narrative, yet it is used to set up what will shortly come into the story. His name means in him is strength, and he is a man of standing, meaning that he was mighty in wealth and in godliness, a rare combination.

Ruth asks Naomi if it would be all right if she went out to glean; Naomi consents. Gleaning was something that only the poor and destitute would usually do, and it was very hard work. A large farmer would allow poor and desperate people to follow behind his harvesters and pick up whatever the harvesters missed in the harvest. Sometimes they would leave the corners of a field unharvested so that the poor might have something to eat, and this is what Ruth was asking to do. Notice in verse 2 that Ruth was not approaching this as some kind of an entitlement, but rather that she was hoping to find favor that she might be allowed to do this back-breaking work to keep her mother in law and herself from starving; she was demonstrating in this a level of humility that might seem foreign to us today.

In verse three she heads off. Remember that she is a stranger to this land and would have no idea which farmer owned which field, yet somehow, she finds herself in the field of Boaz.

Coincidence?

While Ruth is toiling, Boaz returns from town and greets his workers, and then asks the boss if he knows who this woman was who was gleaning. Some commentators suggest that Boaz was curious about her because of her great beauty, but if our text has mentioned her being beautiful, I missed it; probably he just didn’t recognize her. The overseer tells him who she was, and from there forward, our text records the kindness Boaz affords Ruth. Boaz, it seems, views Ruth as a part of his extended family and recognizes that he has a responsibility to care for her in some way. Now let’s be clear about that; Boaz has no legal responsibility for Ruth because her husband was dead, and she is free to marry anyone who will have her. In addition, she is a Moabite, and in that case, he would have no responsibility for her at all, yet because of the loyalty that she has shown to Naomi, Boaz goes out of his way to help her.

Notice that Boaz orders his men to leave her alone, that he gives her a seat at the table with the rest of the household (a household in the OT would include the servants) and that he arranges for her to receive considerably more grain than she would have received just from gleaning. Also, please take note of Ruth’s attitude of humility; even now she assumes no rights or entitlements.

These are two very unusual people!

Earlier, I called Boaz a “man’s man” and here you begin to see what I mean by that. A “man” at least in the old-fashioned sense, was not a grown up child, he was someone with character and integrity who would do the right thing toward others even when it wasn’t convenient or advantageous… but because it was right. He would take care of his own and treat others with respect; I might add that he was a person most notable for his restraint, so to be succinct, Boaz was not working an angle or with any ulterior motive.

By the time she was finished with her work, Ruth carried home about 30 pounds of grain, plus her leftovers from the meal that Boaz had provided her with, an impressive haul to say the least. I have a hunch that Naomi will take notice when she finds out what has taken place…

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.

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.

“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.”

Then Ruth the Moabite said, “He even said to me, ‘Stay with my workers until they finish harvesting all my grain.’”

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.”

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.

Ruth 2:18-23

After the events of Ruth 2:1-17, Ruth returns home with the grain she had obtained from her gleaning in the fields of Boaz. First, she gives the leftovers from her meal to Naomi to eat, and then Naomi, noticing how much she had brought back, asked her where she had been allowed to glean. Ruth tells her that she has been gleaning in the fields of Boaz, and Naomi is quite pleased.

Naomi knows that Boaz is a kinsman-redeemer, which comes from the Hebrew word ga’al which means “kinsman-redeemer”, rendered by the NIV as “guardian-redeemer”. A kinsman-redeemer is a relative who is obligated to “redeem” the property, and sometimes the life or marriage, of a relation who has fallen into severe distress. For example, if there is real property that is owned by a widow, the kinsman-redeemer might buy that property so that the widow, who couldn’t farm it herself, has an income to live off of. They might also pay off a mortgage, take the person into their household, or marry a brother’s wife if they have no children so that the brother can live on through the children. In the case of Boaz, he was a kinsman-redeemer for Naomi, since he is related to her husband. In the case of Ruth, he is a relative of her husband as well, but the fact that Ruth is a Moabite would give Boaz an “out” if he wished to avoid his responsibilities to the family. Finally, we must remind ourselves that there had been a famine in the land 10 years earlier, and we do not know how long it lasted. A famine in the Promised Land would tell us that God’s Law was not being obeyed in that generation, thus Boaz may or may not be the kind of man who would honor this obligation. Naomi seems to think that he will do his duty, based upon Ruth’s report.

As a result of all of this, Naomi advises Ruth to continue gleaning in Boaz’ field, and to visit no others, since Boaz has decided to see to her safety… and that is exactly what Ruth did.

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Delight

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Photo of the Week: July 22, 2021

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Custer State Park, South Dakota

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Victorious…?

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There are days in my life that don’t feel very victorious; how about you?

There are also days when I’m not feeling all that strong or confident in the future; maybe you have those days also.

I’ve lived life long enough to begin to recognize that there’s a pattern to those kinds of feelings and days, for you see those days are days in which I am focused on the things of this world.  OK, nothing crazy here, just ordinary things like the job, the newspaper, the bills, the kids, the leak in the roof, the weeds outside…  No, I don’t feel terribly victorious on those days.

There are other times though, times when the obvious victory causes me not even to notice that other stuff.  These are times when I actually handle the cares of this life better; I get more accomplished and do a better job of it… Maybe you’ve had this experience too.

Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”

 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:55-57

What are the problems of everyday life compared to eternal life?  What are life’s discouragements compared to relationship with the one who conquered death?  What is earthly life as a “slave to the system” compared to life on this earth as a servant of the Most High God?

It’s all a matter of perspective and focus isn’t it?  Where is my focus today, is it on problems or is it on Jesus?

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True Love

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Weekly Podcast: July 21, 2021

Today is a new opportunity for all of us; let’s make this a great day!

Listen Now!

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Stillness

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One time we went to a barbecue at the home of some friends and I stepped away to have a look at the lake where I took this picture with my phone.  It was still and surprisingly cool for July. As I stood there, I couldn’t help but think of the words of the Psalmist:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Psalm 23:1-4 (KJV)

I guess there are just some times when He seems nearer than others; for me these times are early in the morning and in the stillness of the evening.

Yes, He is there.

Of course He’s there the rest of the time too, but it just seems like He’s easier to notice in those still times… maybe it’s just because things are still.  His presence is one of the greatest blessing a person can find in this life, one that I am thankful for.

Isn’t it funny, have you noticed this too?  The things I’m most thankful for are things that don’t cost a cent!

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A Visit to Rushmore

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I’m not really sure why they made this- it’s always seemed like a crazy idea to me to dangle sculptors over the side of a cliff to make a huge sculpture, but they did it. It seems that the idea was to encourage tourism in the area, and they certainly succeeded in doing that. In the end, they not only created a tourist destination in the Black Hills of South Dakota, they not only created a National Monument, they created a national icon.

Yet it was no easy task. The idea was floated in 1923 but the first figure, that of President Washington, wasn’t finished until 1930, and the whole project wasn’t completed until 1941.

I just spent a week in the Black Hills; my first trip there as it happened, and I must say there is a great deal to see without Mount Rushmore- the natural beauty of the place is simply stunning, even for me, and I have a hard time seeing things at all. Yet with that said, there is something about this place…

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We were going to visit there last Monday; that was the plan anyway, but there was a 2 hour wait to get in, there were so many people from all over the world who wanted to see it, or should I say, who wanted to experience it? I dipped into my bag of National Monument tricks and we returned at sunup on Tuesday and had the place almost to ourselves: That is the way to see things like this… and should you ever visit Washington, DC in the high summer season, it’s the only way to visit the National Mall and all of those monuments as well (no extra charge for that great tip).

At dawn the air is cool, the lighting is amazing- and changing. You can hear the birds in the trees, and in this place, you will have the chance to see other wildlife in the woods that are never far away, and you won’t have a view in between the heads of hundreds of thousands of your friends and neighbors…

Most of all for me, Mount Rushmore, whatever you may think about it, and it has its critics, it seems a great example of something that goes all the way back to the Garden in Genesis 1 and 2. God’s creative handiwork is all around you, and there are few places on earth where His Creativity is more exquisite. On display right in the middle is the creativity God gave to Man as part of what it means to be created in His image: God and Man combining together to bring about something unique, and in its way, amazing.

It’s worth the trip.

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Having Mercy

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Countless generations have come to understand their need for mercy; countless generations have found it. Ours is no different.

Of course there have always been those who think they do not need it, and these are a sad lot.  They reject the one thing they need most of all; their pride defeats them.

I see better things for all of you, for the very fact that you have taken time to look at this post would indicate that you are not so proud as to think that God’s mercy is beneath you.  You, dear reader will see a greater future than those who are blinded by pride, for you will seek God’s favor and find it though our Lord Jesus Christ.

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin.

Psalm 51:1-2

May all of us fall on our knees and pray like this with the hope and expectancy that our God will hear our prayer, and that the work of Jesus Christ on the cross will suffice for our cleansing before God. May we also rise from this prayer filled with hope, joy and love for our neighbors, and may that hope, joy and love suffice for us to share His Good News with them.

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Sunday Sermon Notes: July 18, 2021

The Old Testament book of Ruth is often used as a women’s Bible study, and I can see why when it shows the amazing faith of a young widow named Ruth. Yet, I think it is even better as a study for men, since the male lead is a real man’s man: Boaz. Both characters show what faith is in action, both main characters demonstrate godly humility, devotion and service, and as I see it, the take away from the story is one that each one of us can learn from. What does a godly woman look like? Take a look at Ruth.  What does a godly man look like? Take a look at Boaz… and guess what guys; Boaz didn’t have to turn in his “man card” to faithfully follow God.

Ruth 1:1-5

The story begins in the days of the Judges, when God was the only King in Israel. While the text doesn’t say which one of the judges was in office at the time, scholars tend to think that it must have been early in that period, since our text does not say “when there was no king” (Ruth 1:1). In any case, it seems that there was a famine in the land that should have been flowing with milk and honey.

It is important for us to bear in mind that famines were not supposed to happen, and that if one did occur, there were more problems in the land than just a famine. In the Law, God linked His statutes with blessings and curses; there would be blessings when the people obeyed the Law, curses when they did not, and one of those curses was famine (Lev. 26:19). That there was a famine in the land is indicative of disobedience afoot. It would seem that the situation became so bad that people were leaving Bethlehem, headed for more favorable areas where they could find food.

In our story, we find a man named Elimelech, his wife Naomi and their sons Mahlon and Kilion. As most of you know, it is always a good idea to find out what Bible names mean, and this is especially true in the Old Testament, so let’s see…  Elimelech means my God a King, Naomi means amiable or pleasant, and their sons’ names mean sickness and consumption. Perhaps the boys were sickly children, unlikely to live long lives; certainly, if I wanted to go “old school” with you, I’d say that the lesson is that out of an amiable and pleasant life comes sickness and consumption (the old name for tuberculosis) but when do I ever go “old school” here?

Off they go to Moab, the land of the Moabites just across the Jordan River, which isn’t really very far from Bethlehem, at least in terms of highway miles. Even so, it must have been night and day when it comes to the availability of food. Understand that for a Jew to leave the Promised Land to live among the gentile Moabites was a very big deal, and this family must have been very desperate to do this.

The family lived in Moab for 10 years. During this time, Elimelech died, and then the two sons married local Moabite women, and in turn each of the sons died leaving Naomi alone with her two daughters in law. No reasons are given for the deaths of the men, but one thing is very clear: These events were disastrous.  For a woman, or three women, to be left alone in the world without a man or an extended family in those days meant that one of three things would very shortly happen: The woman would find a man to marry, she would become a prostitute, or she would starve. Thus Naomi, Orpah and Ruth were in very deep trouble as our passage draws to a close. What will they do?

Ruth 1:6-22

We pick up the story in the midst of calamity for Naomi and her two daughters in law. All of their husbands have died and they have no way to earn a living in Moab without them and something must be done− and done quickly. Naomi resolves to return to Bethlehem, since she has heard that the famine has passed and the fields are once again producing in abundance. She announces to Orpah and Ruth that she intends to return home, and urges them to return to their families, in the hope that they will be taken in, but they protest. The text does not tell us exactly why they protested so much; what Naomi has urged upon them makes all the sense in the world; their only chance is to be reunited with their extended families… but will they have them back? Maybe Orpah and Ruth have just become so attached to Naomi that they can’t bear to part and would prefer to take their chances back in Bethlehem, where there are certainly no guarantees that they will be accepted, since they are not Israelites.

Naomi’s thinking is pretty simple; she is too old to marry again, and even if she did she may be past childbearing. Even so, if she could bear more sons, and found a man who would take her as a wife in his old age, Orpah and Ruth can’t wait around for years on end while the sons grew up. No, their only hope would be to return to their families and hope for another chance. Orpah finally sees reason and heads back to her clan, but Ruth, well that is another matter.

For whatever reason, Ruth declares her unyielding intention to stick by Naomi, to worship the God of Israel and to go where ever Naomi goes and to share her fate. Seeing Ruth’s determination, Naomi gives in and lets her travel with Naomi to Bethlehem and an uncertain fate.

What will happen to them when they return? Will the family take Naomi in after all these years of living among the Moabites? Without a doubt, many families would turn their backs on her at this point, particularly with a gentile in tow. When they arrive, the people in Bethlehem are amazed to see them.  Naomi tells the women (for men did not normally speak to unattached women) that they should call her Mara from now on, which means bitter, for God had turned against her.

Interesting isn’t it? From Naomi, which means amiable or pleasant, to Mara which means bitter because of all the family calamity she had suffered. The chapter ends with the notice that they had arrived just as the barley harvest was beginning.

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