Summary: In times of harship we cry out to God to deliver us, to change our circumstances, but God wants to do a work of transformation in our hearts. Join us as we see how God reveals His grace to Ruth and begins a work in her heart.
The Incomparable Boaz - Ruth 2:4-16 - February 24, 2013
Series: From Heartache to Hope – The Redemption of Ruth #5
When we find ourselves in a miserable situation in life, surrounded by circumstances that are not of our choosing, nor of our liking, the prayer of our hearts is likely to be something like this: “O God, take this thing from me! Do away with the pain, wash away the suffering, bring healing to the hurt, and hope for tomorrow. Take this cup from me so that I need not drink from its bitter depths.” We, quite understandably, want to avoid the hard things of life.
Naomi and Ruth had likely called out to God in a similar way in the midst of their hardship and sorrow. We have followed their story now, for the last number of weeks. We have seen things go from bad to worse as they flee a famine and arrive in a land that will become to them a place of death and despair. But we’ve also begun to see the corner turned. They have gone back to Bethlehem, the House of Bread, in Judah, the Place of Praise.
Naomi says that when she left Bethlehem, that “she went out full, but God brought her back empty.” She has changed. She whose name means “pleasant,” has become, “bitter.” Bitter at how life as turned out, and bitter against God who did not spare her the pain nor sorrow of loss and shattered dreams.
Like Naomi, when we find ourselves in that long, dark night of the soul, we cry out for God to change our circumstances too. But our God is not so shallow as that. Now we need to hear that very carefully. But more than merely changing our circumstances, which is what we long for, God desires that the heart be transformed. There is a work that He longs to see done within us; a work that would see us conformed to the image of Jesus. If you are a child of God, the Holy Spirit is moving in your life, to bring forth this transformation that God is seeking. A transforming work of the heart that will draw us closer to God, and which will leave us forever changed.
Warren Wiersbe puts it this way: “If our circumstances change for the better, but we remain the same, then we will become worse.” (Wiersbe, W. W. (1993). Be Committed. “Be” Commentary Series (24). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.) There is much truth in those words. Yes, when we’re in that dark place we long to see the circumstances of our lives changed, but even more than that we ought to be longing for the change that only God can bring, that transforming of heart, mind and spirit that opens our eyes to that which God is doing, and which will remain with us when the circumstances, which have so overwhelmed us, have come and gone.
Now Naomi is bitter against God. Her heart is closed. But Ruth’s heart is open. She’s humble before God. She’s entrusted herself to His care and taking a step of faith. She is allowing God to work in her, and because of that, God is not only going to work in her, but to work through her, and through her He will touch Naomi’s heart as well, and in the process they will experience God’s amazing grace. And beyond even that, God has much bigger plans. They have no way of seeing it, no way of knowing it, but Ruth is going to be another link in the chain through which God will fulfill His promise to Abraham – the promise of a Savior who would save His people.
So open your Bibles with me this morning, please, to the book of Ruth and we’ll pick up where we left off last week. Ruth, chapter 2, beginning in verse 4. Naomi and Ruth have arrived in Bethlehem, they’ve started to settle in, but they need to find a way to live. It’s harvest time and Ruth goes out to the fields to glean the grain the harvesters have left behind. She goes out hoping to find favor and grace, yet not really expecting to find either. She is a stranger here, a foreigner from a people who did not worship God, she is unknown by the workers and the landowners, unfamiliar with their customs and their ways, and yet despite her past, she goes out amongst God’s people hoping beyond hope to find favor and experience grace.
That’s what many of us have in the past, or are today, longing for as well, isn’t it? Favor before man and grace by the hand of God. But like Ruth we set out without any real expectation of discovering it. We know the past – the sin, the shame, the darkness – the choices we wish we could go back and do differently. We know the present – the uncertainty, the fear, the anxious moments. We know our own hearts and like Ruth we therefore despair of discovering favor and grace amongst God’s people, or from the hand of God Himself.