Received by the Redeemer
Now Naomi had a kinsman of her husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz.
And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, "Please let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after one in whose sight I may find favor." And she said to her, "Go, my daughter."
So she departed and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers; and she happened to come to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.
Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem and said to the reapers, "May the LORD be with you." And they said to him, "May the LORD bless you."
Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, "Whose young woman is this?"6 The servant in charge of the reapers replied, "She is the young Moabite woman who returned with Naomi from the land of Moab. 7 And she said, ĎPlease let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.í Thus she came and has remained from the morning until now; she has been sitting in the house for a little while."
Then Boaz said to Ruth, "Listen carefully, my daughter. Do not go to glean in another field; furthermore, do not go on from this one, but stay here with my maids.9 Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Indeed, I have commanded the servants not to touch you. When you are thirsty, go to the water jars and drink from what the servants draw."
Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground and said to him, "Why have I found favor in your sight that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?"
Boaz replied to her, "All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know.12 May the LORD reward your work, and your wages be full from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge."
Then she said, "I have found favor in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and indeed have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants."
At mealtime Boaz said to her, "Come here, that you may eat of the bread and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar." So she sat beside the reapers; and he served her roasted grain, and she ate and was satisfied and had some left.
When she rose to glean, Boaz commanded his servants, saying, ""Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not insult her.16 Also you shall purposely pull out for her some grain from the bundles and leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her."
So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley.
She took it up and went into the city, and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also took it out and gave Naomi what she had left after she was satisfied.
Her mother-in-law then said to her, "Where did you glean today and where did you work? May he who took notice of you be blessed." So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, "The name of the man with whom I worked today is Boaz."
Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, "May he be blessed of the LORD who has not withdrawn his kindness to the living and to the dead." Again Naomi said to her, "The man is our relative, he is one of our closest relatives."
Then Ruth the Moabitess said, "Furthermore, he said to me, ĎYou should stay close to my servants until they have finished all my harvest.í"
Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, ""It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his maids, so that others do not fall upon you in another field."
So she stayed close by the maids of Boaz in order to glean until the end of the barley harvest and the wheat harvest. And she lived with her mother-in-law. (Ruth 2:1-23).
One of the most successful and longest-running sitcoms in the history of television was a story about a group of friends who gathered after work every day in a certain tavern in Boston, Massachusetts. Maybe you remember the theme song of that TV program and some of the words. It went like this:
Making your way
in the world today,
Takes everything youíve got.
Taking a break
from all your worries
Should would mean a lot.
You want to go
where people know,
That people are all the same
You want to go
where everybody knows your name.
I wonder if the popularity of the show, Cheers, had something to do with the last line of that song, "You want to go where everybody knows your name." I wonder if the writers of that sitcom really tapped into a universal longing in all of us and that thatís one reason why the show found such great popularity.
Isnít it true that we all long for a place where everybody knows our name? Isnít it true that we all want to be in a place of belonging - we all want to fit in, be known, accepted, and embraced by a group of people? Everybody wants to belong.
We have a little household cleaning principle in the Campo family. As the kidsí stuff is sometimes strewn around the house and Missy and I have to get on them to put it all back, weíll say something like this, "Remember, in this house everything has a place where it belongs. And if it doesnít have a place where it belongs in this house, then it doesnít belong in this house and we have to get rid of it. So, either find a place for it or itís going."
If this is true regarding toys then how much more true regarding Godís beloved people? They all belong in a designated place. When we come to God through faith in Christ, then God puts them in a designated place; He plants them in the courts of the Lord and there they flourish all the days of their lives. He plants all of His people in the church.
Ruth, the Moabitiss Have you noticed how frequently Ruth is referred to as "the Moabitiss?" I think that she is mentioned more often as the Moabitiss than just simply Ruth. Ruth the Moabitiss, as if the writer is constantly reinforcing to us, "Remember, Ruth was not of Israel. She was a stranger. She was an alien." She was an outsider, but one whom God was bringing in. Ruth, the Moabitiss. She is now finding that acceptance with God also implies acceptance with the people of God.
We see here, in Ruth, a pattern which is typical of every Christianís experience. Acceptance by the Redeemer leads to a home among the redeemed in the church.
Obviously, as we look at Boaz, he is not Christ, he is not a preincarnate appearance of Christ in the Old Testament, but Boaz is, as weíve said, a redeemer. Not the Redeemer, but a redeemer. His way of accepting Ruth is typical, is similar to the way that our Redeemer accepts us. If weíll learn something about the way Boaz accepts Ruth, weíll see something of the way Christ accepts and receives us.
Letís think about at least four parallels between the way Boaz received Ruth and the way our Redeemer, Christ, receives us.
First, notice that Boaz "takes notice" of Ruth. It says in verse 5, "Boaz coming to the field asks, ĎWhose young woman is this?í" He sees that Ruth does not at this time belong. She does not have a place among the reapers. Sheís an outsider, a stranger, and the powerful man, the wealthy man, the landowner, Boaz, looks down on the weak, the needy, the humble Ruth.
Again, this is a picture of the way our Lord Jesus, strong, powerful, mighty to save looks down upon needy sinners like you and me, and takes notice of us. Paul says, "You were dead in your trespass and sinÖ..but God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love for us, even when you were dead, made you alive together with Christ."
God took notice of the dead even though the dead could in no way take notice of Him. Our Redeemer, like Ruthís redeemer, takes notice of us.
Remember the man in the Gospel whose son was demon-possessed? So desperate was this man, so beside himself, with no other avenue, no place to turn, he came, broken, desperate before Jesus. Falling down he said to Jesus, "Take pity on us." And Jesus said these words to him, "All things are possible for those who believe." But immediately this desperate man diagnosis the problem. He wonders whether he believes. He detects in himself a germ, at least one grain, one seed of faith. At least he has enough faith to say, "Help me, Jesus!"
And Jesus says, "All things are possible for those who believe." And the man responds, "Lord, I do believe. Help my unbelief!"
And finding the mustard seed, that tiny presence of faith, just enough to cry out, "Help!" Jesus takes pity on him, notices him, has mercy on him, and heals his son.
You remember the woman with the hemorrhage? So many years of suffering, ostracized, unclean, outside of her society, she made her way, weaving through the crowd. Presumably down on her knees she lays hold of the fringe of Jesusí garment and Jesus, "...takes notice of her." "Who touched me, I felt power go out of me." He turns to the woman, takes notice of her, has mercy on her, and heals her.
We have a Redeemer who notices us. In fact, He recognizes your need before you recognize your need. Thatís why the worst we can do in the Christian life is to be pretentious about our lack of need. Because Jesus already recognizes your very present need. The best thing we can do in the Christian life is to come out with our sin, come out with our need, come out with our fears, come out with the anxieties of our heart and present to the Redeemer who already notices them. He has a keen eye to recognize our need. Isnít that wonderful about our Redeemer - that He recognizes our need.
A second parallel exists in the fact that Boaz rushed to satisfy Ruthís need and to restore and protect her. Perhaps you noticed in verse 8, Boaz says to her, "Donít go" as if he runs to her and thinking that his very presence might be frightening to her, he calms her, "Donít go. I know you think I might be here to chase you away, but Iím telling you, ĎDonít go.í Donít go from here, donít glean in another field. Stay here and when you are thirsty, drink with the waters that I give to my own servants."
Later, in verses 15 and 16, "...he more supplies" and commands his servants not to harm but to provide for the humbled Ruth. In the same way, our Redeemer, after He recognizes, after He notices our need, rushes in to provide for, to satisfy, to rescue us from our guilt and the power of sin. He restores our waywardness.
Jesus is even now restoring this wayward person. Little by little He is steering my heart towards Him. He feeds us, satisfies us. Did you notice, "She ate, she was satisfied, and she had some left over." This is an indication of the abundance of the supply provided by Boaz.
Isnít the supply by our Redeemer abundant? He feeds us with Himself; the Bread from Bethlehem is Christ. He says, "I am the Bread of Life." He gives us His Spirit and that Spirit wells up in us and overflows in fountains of living water.
And, as Ruth humbled herself and received, there was no pride in her. "I have found favor in your sight..." is not the best translation. It is better to say, "If I have found favor in your sight and obviously I haveÖ" everything she says towards Boaz, her redeemer, is soaked and saturated in humility.
In the same way, when we humble ourselves, throw up our hands, and are ready to receive from Jesus, as we bring newly discovered sin to Him, as we confess our need to Him, He feeds, He satisfies, He rushes to protect us from all of our enemies and all of His enemies.
Thereís a third parallel in that Boaz recognized and rewarded Ruthís works. Boaz recognized Ruthís devotion to her mother-in-law and he rewarded her for that. Verses 10 and 11: "Then she fell on her face and bowed on the ground and said to him, ĎWhy have I found favor in your sight that you should take notice of me since I am a foreigner?" And Boaz answered and said to her, "All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth and came to a people that you did not previously know."
I want to draw this out because I think it is important that we find a parallel in the Christian life but that we not misapply it and come away with an error.
There is truth in the fact that Jesus rewards the works of His chosen ones. The Lord not only gives us the capacity for good works (the unregenerate donít have that capacity and can do nothing to merit any favor from God) but He also gives us the capacity for works and then empowers us by His Spirit to do those works. Then by His redeeming work on the cross He makes our works acceptable to God. After He has Himself empowered, enabled, given us the capacity for, and sanctified our works, He rewards us for those works. He does the work in us and then rewards us for the work. Itís grace upon grace.
The other side of the coin is this: itís very important to know and to always be reminded that God never saves anyone on the basis of that personís works. Nor does God ever save anyone on the basis of future works which God foresees.
From time to time Iíve had people as me to pray for an unbelieving loved one, neighbor, co-worker, or friend. Thatís great and I always love to do that. But sometimes theyíve gone to the next unbiblical step and said, "Oh, pray for my son. He has such a good heart - heíd be such a good Christian."
Thatís just an error. God never saves anyone for the potential that person has that he might bring with him into the kingdom. He never saves you, never saves anyone on the basis of future works.
But, our Redeemer does reward the works of those whom He saves. Even though all of our present works, even the works of the redeemed, have lots of vestiges, lots of remaining junk, work done in order to be noticed, that done with wrong motives and self-centeredness, still, because of the grace of God, He accepts our works and rewards our works and looks upon our works as being in Christ.
When we recognize that God rewards me for the work of Christ in me, not only do I want to do more good works, but I want to praise and adore the grace of God, and I want to say with Ruth, "Why have I found favor in Your sight since Iím a foreigner."
Thereís a fourth parallel between the way Ruthís acceptance with Boaz is similar to our acceptance with Christ. Did you notice that Boaz introduces Ruth into an intimate relationship with him and into an intimate relationship with his servants. He commands his servants to respond to Ruth in a certain way and he guarantees her reception in their ranks.
He invites Ruth to eat with him, perhaps you notice it in verse 14: "And at meal time Boaz said to her, ĎCome here that you may eat of the bread and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar.í So she sat beside the reapers and he served her roasted grain and she ate and was satisfied and had some left."
Itís a kind of intimate privilege that Boaz calls Ruth into - to hold out oneís bowl of vinegar to another person and say, "Here, you dip your hand into the same bowl into which I dip my hand."
Do you remember that the same kind of thing happened in the Last Supper? Jesus was holding out the ultimate intimacy toward Judas and Judas had the audacity to not only take Jesus up on it the sight of all the other disciples, but to use that show of intimacy in order to betray the Lord.
You know, our Redeemer holds out to us the deepest kind of intimacy as he invites into intimate communion with Him. When we receive Him and commune with Him at the Lordís table, He is there giving Himself to us, saying, "Come, dip your hand with Me into the bowl. Come and commune with Me. Come into intimate friendship and love with Me."
But, we donít come to the Lordís table simply one-on-one with the Lord. We come to the Lordís table, that most intimate time of communion enjoyed by this church, as a corporate body.
I recently listened to a tape where I was reminded of something that I had heard long ago, about some sort of movement underfoot where a group of pastors were encouraging people to take the Lordís Supper just between "me, individually, and the Lord." It was to be an individual religious experience where I was to take the Lordís Supper by myself. Of course, the reason given for that is that "Itís so meaningful" to take the Lordís Supper by yourself. You know what? Itís not meaningful at all! In fact, itís the epitome of meaninglessness!
The Lordís Supper is not an individual religious experience between my soul and the Lord. The Lordís Supper is always a communion among the people of God. When He invites us to the Redeemerís table He invites us to sit among the redeemed. In the same way that Ruthís redeemer invited her to sit with him, she was also invited to sit among the reapers, a parallel, again. Not only into relationship with him, but also into close and intimate relationship with his redeemed people.
Thatís really what I want to focus on. Weíve seen the truth before in this very book, the Book of Ruth - the indivisibility of God and His people. Do you remember when Ruth was clinging to her mother-in-law and Naomi was trying unsuccessfully to peal her off and send her back to Moab? It was then that Ruth uttered the dramatic and powerful words, "No! I will not go back! Your people will be my people and your God will be my God."
Itís like a complete package. Come into the people of God and come into God. Come into God, and of necessity, come among the people of God.
The same truth emerges here in our present passage in Boazí words of blessing in verse 11: "It has been fully reported to me how you left your father and mother and you left the land of your birth and you came to this people that you did not previously know. And may the Lord reward your work and your wages be full from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge."
You left your people, and you joined this people. You left your gods and you came to this God. Come to God and come to His people - it is presented as one motion. You find this emphasis again and again throughout the Old Testament; if you come to the true and living God you come also to His people. You see it in Rahab. Do you remember how Rahab turned to the true and living God. In order to do so she had to sever ties, in a sense, in fact she had to betray her own people. She had to join Jehovah and simultaneously join His people. She finds shelter with Him and, at the same time, finds shelter with them.
Donít you see it biblically portrayed here in Ruthís experience? To enter into covenant relationship with the God of the Jews one must also become one with the Jews.
The same emphasis is found in the New Testament, not only when the Church was a national church, but now when the Church is an international church, Jesus will demand a people when He calls His elect to Himself. Thatís why we find Jesus making these seemingly outlandish statements about allegiance to Himself and allegiance to His people as when He says in Luke 14: "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters and even his own life, he cannot be one of My disciples."
Jesus is saying that allegiance to His person and to His people is an ultimate allegiance that supercedes even the ultimate allegiances that you have known to this point to your father and mother and brother and sister. "Come to Me - come to My people" and this becomes your family.
Matthew 12 says people came and said, "Jesus, stop teaching. Go outside. Your brothers and mother are here and theyíre calling for you." Jesus asks the question, "Who is my mother and who are my brothers? Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven, he is my brother, my sister, and my mother."
The same thing is echoed in the writings of the apostles. Peter in the 1st epistle: "Once you were not a people but now you have become the people of God" simultaneously received by God and simultaneously planted among His people. The Church becomes my family as soon as God becomes my Father.
You can read it in Acts. The earliest record of Christian conversions says, "The Lord was adding to their number daily those who were being saved." It becomes clear that this Godís family, this is the new generation, this is the new race, this is the body of Christ. Christ is the Head, but you cannot be connected to the Head except you be connected to the body. The one presumes the other.
Just as we tell our children in the Campo house, "Look, everything has a place where it belongs," so every Christian needs to know, every Christian has a place where he belongs and that place is in the Body of Christ, the Church.
Thatís why, as Christians, we can never afford to despise or look lightly upon the Church but have to always take it most seriously and to find a great source of joy. I love that line by the Psalmist, when in thinking of the Church he says, "All my springs of joy are in you" (the Church) as if outside the Church I always feel alienated, I always feel as though I donít belong, but as I come into the Church I find the place where I belong. All my springs of joy are in you.
We read it in the opening verses of todayís service, "The bird has found a place where she may nest, the swallow has found a place where she may lay her young, even Thine altars, the Church, O Lord of Hosts, my King and my God, how blessed are those who dwell in Thy house. They are ever praising Thee."
Now, what should we do with this? I think you can immediately see some ramifications to what Iíve been saying, but to make sure no one gets the wrong idea, but that you get something practical and immediately applicational from this, let me raise a couple of issues.
This sermon and this outlook on the Church answers the question that is often raised in our Inquirersí classes or comes up when I talk with our visitors. They ask, "Why, when you serve the Lordís Supper, do you always find it necessary not only to say, ĎThis Lordís Supper is for those who believe in Christ, but you always say words similar to these,í ĎThis is the Lordís Supper, itís open only to those who trust in Christ and are members in good standing of a Bible-believing church.í ĎWhy do you put yet another obstacle in the way when Scripture only seems to put the one obstacle - believe in Christ, and then come to take the Supper?í"
Actually, Scripture does present both obstacles. In fact, itís an indication whether or not weíre in right relationship with the Redeemer - whether or not weíre in right relationship with the redeemed. And if weíre not in right relationship with the redeemed itís an indication that weíre not in right relationship with the Redeemer.
Those who refuse to unite with others churches, or this church, those who refuse to come under the shelter of the Churchís wings, those who refuse to commit themselves by vows to a Bible-believing church have great necessity of questioning whether or not they have come into right relationship with the Redeemer. Scripturally speaking, itís a very serious issue.
Secondly, we all have relatives, friends, or co-workers who boast of a relationship with the Redeemer but who really have no relationship to speak of, with the redeemed. This is troublesome. Iíve met many people who would tell me, "I have this relative and heís a great, strong Christian, spends all his time studying the Bible, heís such a strong believer in Christ. He even goes on the internet and spends time in chat rooms discussing deep theological issues."
"What church does he attend?"
"Well, you know, he was hurt by a church, five years ago, ten years ago, and he hasnít attended church since."
My dear brother and sister, I have grave doubts about the spiritual condition of such a person. That person is living apart from a life-style of repentance. That person needs immediately to be warned and told, "Flee, my friend, back into the shelter of Godís people lest you perish outside of the people, and perish eternally."
Too many times we have imbibed of the spirit of rabid individualism in our culture today. Itís terrible. We all think of ourselves as a bundle of individual personal choices. Hasnít it reaped an ugly toll in our culture and hasnít it reaped an ugly toll in the Church?
We ought to warn our friends, our neighbors, "Go back to the Church. Repent, receive."
Thirdly, even though we may be technically rightly related to the Church, we may be a member here or in another congregation, and we may see this as our home church, but we may be, even though technically rightly related, practically despising the Church.
I know you can say, "Who can possibly despise the Church?" I certainly hope no one would voice those words but practically speaking, we may be showing that. Sporadic attendance despises the Church. Sabbath-breaking despises the Church. Broken relationships within the Church is a way of despising the Church. That is why the New Testament writers have so much to say about these "one anotherís." They are very concerned to show that relationships in the Church be maintained, that gossip never be allowed to flourish, that no root of bitterness spring up and defile her.
The New Testament writers present a place where thereís brokenness in the Church and people can come humbled before one another and apologize and make things right so that a community of reconciliation exists.
I would ask that if you find yourself speaking out of turn about a person that you see the need in yourself (as I have found need in my own self) to quickly repent and restore that relationship. Perhaps you would also be able to say, along with me, we have need to repent, to go to another person, to stop despising the fellowship of Godís beloved people.
Repentance is a good thing. It restores us, it cleanses us, it brings us into a place of rejuvenated and revitalized relationship with Jesus and with one another. The truth is, if we walk in the light as He is in the light, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sins and we have fellowship with one another.
Lastly, drink it in. Drink in the joys of life in the House of God. There are joys everywhere saturating this congregation of Godís people.
Last Friday night I went to our first St. Andrewsí Coffee House. Thatís certainly not going to be a place where the blessings of God abound and thereís real spiritual activity going on, right? Wrong! As I came into the Coffee House, I saw one of our elders, "Mac" Wilbur McDuff and we started conversation. Before long I was greatly encouraged by him and I trust that I was encouraging to him. As I left that conversation I found Kathy Murphy and we began a conversation and I think we were mutually encouraged. I saw Dan Green - hadnít talked with him for awhile, and he came up next to me and we started to chat. Jim Cunningham was sitting next to me and I inquired about his business and he told me that some raccoons got in a destroyed a whole crop of orchid plants in his nursery. And I was able to "feel" for him. Then Kristi Lawrence came and sat with us - she is a new teacher undergoing her internship as a kindergarten teacher. She shared a little about the difficulties she was encountering. Walter Emery was sitting there and I introduced Walter to Kristi and they started a conversation. Then a few minutes later I saw Kristi get up and she made her way over to Susan Smith and I could see a kind of "mother-daughter" thing of going on and after 15 or 20 minutes they were parting sharing a "holy hug" between them. I talked with the Carusoís about some situations in their lives. And wasnít I just sitting there as a pastor just warmed to the very depth of who I am?!
Look how God has blessed us! Look at this safe, nurturing, cultivating environment! Look at the courts of the Lord! Look at the house of God! What a privilege it is to be planted among them, loving, accepting, sometimes challenging one another, sometimes falling into disrepair in our relationships and having those relationships mended, and like a plant thatís been grafted, it becomes stronger when mended.
No wonder the Psalmist said, and John Newton repeated in the opening line of his hymn, "Glorious things of Thee are spoken, Zion, City of our God."
Receive, brothers and sisters, the encouragement that God holds out to you and be an encouragement within the house of God.
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Our Father we thank You for the glorious Church. We thank You that in Christ she is presented before You, our Father, without spot or wrinkle. Though we are so quick sometimes to see the blemishes in the Church, we pray that we would overlook those, that love would cover a multitude of sins and that we would be found encouraging and receiving encouragement from one another.
Thank You, Lord, for this congregation and how love is beginning more and more to pervade and be the watchword in every conversation.
Father, help us continue to progress. I pray for those who might have seen themselves as being out of accord with another person in the congregation, grant repentance, Father, and restoration, and let this truly be a community of the reconciled and of reconciliation.
Father, come now, and as we think about the glorious Church, remind us of what a privilege it is to be among the people of God.
We pray these things in Jesusí name. Amen