Summary: (#4) Ruth discovers God's grace, favor and provision in unexpected places! That's how God often works in our own lives - where will you discover God's grace in yours?
Fields of Favor and Faith - Ruth 2:1-4 - February 17, 2013
Series: From Heartache to Hope - The Redemption of Ruth - #4
Looking back over the years it is safe to say that the summer of 1994 has been the most difficult period of my life thus far. Much of what I believed to be true about myself, and about life, as well as many of my hopes and dreams, came crashing down around me that summer. At the time I was working as a flight instructor and in the space of just two months I was involved in two aircraft accidents. I was engaged to be married but broke the engagement off. I was deeply depressed and contemplated suicide frequently. And that was just the tip of the iceberg, as they say. It was a very dark period in my life.
And for quite some time I wondered, and I wrestled, with what it was all about. Why did that all have to happen? Where do I go from here? Could life ever look different? Was there any hope for a better future?
Naomi and Ruth must have wrestled with similar questions in the darkness of their own hearts as they came to the outskirts of Bethlehem so long ago. The last few years had not been kind to them. They had both lost husbands and Naomi had lost her two sons. In her own words, “she had gone out full, but God brought her back empty.” There was bitterness in her heart that changed her personality and colored the way she perceived the world around her.
I think I can understand a bit of what she must have felt in those days - and maybe you can too because you have got your own story. For quite some time I despised that bitter period of my life and wished that it had never been, wished that I could go back and do things differently. But the passage of time, as you well know, is a one way trip; there is no going back; there is simply a moving forward.
At the time I could say like Naomi, “that though I went out full, God brought me back emptied.” But now, after the passage of many years, my perspective has changed. While there is still sorrow, and a bit of pain from that time, the bitterness is gone. Looking back on that summer I now see things differently than I once did.
In the second chapter of the book of Romans the apostle Paul asks his readers a question. It’s not a question to which he expects an answer, but rather a question he asks in order to make them consider their very understanding of how God moves, and acts, in their lives. He writes to them and asks them this, saying: “Do you show contempt for the riches of his [God’s] kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” (Romans 2:4, NIV84)
What I took as bitter, was really God’s kindness to me. How can I say that? Because it’s the events of that summer that transformed my life and ultimately brought me to faith in Jesus. God’s kindness led me to brokenness, and brokenness to repentance, in order that He might bring healing and new life. If it were not for the events of that summer, my hands would not have been emptied so that He could fill them up with that which was pleasing to Him.
Naomi and Ruth stand in that place today. Their hands and lives have been emptied, but God has not forsaken them. And if you’ve gone out full – full of life and hopes and dreams and expectations that are marked by your own will and desires rather than by God’s, and He has brought you back empty and broken, I want you to understand that God has not forsaken you either. Even now He may be at work, laying the foundation, to give you a new future. With that thought in mind I’ll ask you to open your Bibles with me this morning to the book of Ruth; Ruth, chapter 2, and we’ll begin reading in verse 1. This is what we read …
“Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, from the clan of Elimelech, a man of standing, whose name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabitess 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.” So she went out and began to glean in the fields behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech. Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The LORD be with you!” “The LORD bless you!” they called back.” (Ruth 2:1–4, NIV84)