“The Lord Helps those who Help themselves”
You might think that saying comes from the bible, but it doesn’t. But I think a lot of times it’s true. Maybe it’s always true. We all have a job to do, if we want God’s blessings.
Paul tells us in 2 Thessalonians 3, verse 10; “If anyone refuses to work, neither let him eat.” If we’re literally not able to work, God still promises to feed us doesn’t He? Jesus said; “Look at the birds of the air. They do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather in barns. And yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than them?” Mathew 6, verse 26.
But even if we can’t work at a regular job, don’t we still have a job to do? Jesus said; “But seek FIRST, His kingdom, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Verse 33. So then our very FIRST job, is to do GOD’S work.
We’re told in James 4, verse 8; “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” I read a little saying the other day; “Don’t ask the Lord to direct your steps, if you’re not willing to move your feet.”
Ruth and Naomi
In last week’s lesson, we saw how two widow women, Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi, did what they had to, to get themselves from the land of Moab, back to Naomi’s home town of Bethlehem. And we saw how GOD went with them.
It says in Micah 6, verse 8; “And what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” Both these women seemed to truly love kindness, and so they walked with God, back to Jerusalem.
Last week, I talked about how Ruth and Naomi had to cross that overflowing Jordan river? I don’t see any way they could have done it on their own. So I’m sure that God led them across. Just like it says in Deuteronomy 31:8; “And the Lord is the one who goes ahead of you..”
So just remember, the next time you’ve got “a Jordan” to cross, Do your part, be kind, be humble, and rest assured, “the Lord is the one who goes ahead of you”. God says; “Don’t worry, I’m right here in front of you.”
So now, open your bibles to the book of Ruth. The last verse of chapter 1 says; “So Naomi returned, and with her, Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, who returned from the land of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.”
You know, I can’t think of a better time, to arrive back in Bethlehem, than at the beginning of the harvest. The bible doesn’t tell us how many days it took Ruth and Naomi, to get from Moab back to Bethlehem. And it doesn’t tell us what they had to eat during this journey. But what a great time to arrive in Bethlehem, at the beginning of the harvest. I don’t know if that was the providence of God or not, but that has to be the most plentiful time of the year.
Let’s read from Ruth chapter 2, verses 1 thru 3; “Now Naomi had a kinsman of her husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Eli-me’-lek, 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 Eli-me’-lek.”
Ruth didn’t waste any time did she? It seems like just as soon as they got settled back in Bethlehem, Ruth was wanting to go out and work, and provide for herself and for Naomi. We’re going to see again here, how the Lord helps those who help themselves.
The providence of God, had always been with Israel in providing for them, and even providing for strangers. Listen to the instruction that God gave Israel, in Leviticus 23, verse 22; “When you reap the harvest of your land moreover, you shall NOT reap to the very corners of your field, nor gather the gleaning of your harvest.”
When you harvest a field, you cut down the crop, and then you gather what’s been cut, into bundles, or sheaves. And when you’re doing it by hand, you don’t get every last little bit, but some always falls out of the bundle, or gets left behind somehow. And the part that gets left behind, is the “gleaning”. God commanded that the reapers do NOT go back and gather the gleaning. Just leave it there in the field. And God also commanded, that the reapers were NOT to go all the way up into the corners of the fields.
Here’s the rest of verse 22 that I was reading; “You are to leave them for the needy, and the alien. I am the Lord your God!” In other words; I am commanding you to allow ALL people to have the opportunity to gather, and to eat. Anyone who is willing to go, can go and glean from the fields to feed themselves. But I guess, if your not willing to work, neither should you eat.
Well, Ruth was more than willing to work, and that’s exactly what she did. She went out into the fields and began to glean the leftovers, you might say. And as God’s providence would have it, Ruth came to that portion of the field belonging to Boaz, the relative of Eli-me’-lek.
Let’s read several more verses now. Chapter 2, verses 5 thru 9; “Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers; Whose young woman is this? And the servant in charge answered and said; She is the young Moabite woman who returned with Naomi from the land of Moab. And she said; Please let me glean and gather after the reapers, among the sheaves. 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. Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them.” So, in other words, watch were my reapers are working, and go and glean in those fields. “Indeed, I have commanded the servants not to touch you.” Boaz had already instructed his servants to allow Ruth to glean all she needs. Then Boaz said; “When you are thirsty, go to the water jars and drink from what the servants draw.”
Boaz was treating Ruth, just like one of his own, wasn’t he? And she was surprised by it too. She wasn’t one of his own, she was a foreigner. I wonder if God is trying to tell us something here? Remember the passage in Acts 10, verses 34 & 35; “I most certainly understand now, that God is not a respector of persons, but in every nation, the one who fears Him and does His will, is acceptable to Him.”
Listen to the next couple of verses. Verses 9 thru 11
“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? 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 mother, and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know.”
Our Good Works Follow Us
It says in Revelation 14, verse 13; “Blessed are the dead, who die in the Lord, from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.” So truly, our good deeds will follow us into eternity, and we’ll receive God’s blessings there. But it sounds like from this story, that God is telling us, that our deeds follow us in this life also. And Yes, God will bless us in this life too.
God’s providential care, many times goes from one individual, to another. That’s how God uses US, to accomplish His purpose.
Boaz said to Ruth, in verse 12; “May the Lord reward your work, and may 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 maid-servant, though I am not like one of your maid-servants.” No, she wasn’t like the rest of the servants, Ruth was different. And so Boaz told those in charge; “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not insult her.” (Don’t limit her) And also, you shall purposely, pull out for her from the bundles, and leave it, that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.” Verses 15 & 16
We had learned from verse 1, that Boaz was a man of great wealth. But it sounds like from what we’ve been reading, that he was also a man of great kindness. And just like we saw God using Ruth, to bless Naomi, now we see God using Boaz, to bless Ruth. But God hasn’t forgotten about Naomi..
Listen to verses 17 & 18; “So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley.” Historians aren’t really sure how much an ephah is, but it seems to be a goodly amount. “And she took up, and went into the city, and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also took out, and gave Naomi what she had left after she was satisfied.”
In other words, there was evidently plenty, for both of them! So Naomi wasn’t left out of the loop. So once again, we need to remember, that although God allowed Naomi to suffer loss, He also allowed her to have a great blessing with Ruth.
And back in Bethlehem, God had blessed Boaz with great wealth. And then God blessed Ruth with the kindness of Boaz, and with a “sharing” in his wealth. And then finally those blessings came back to Naomi once again.
That’s how it is, when you have fellowship with God. You get to share in the blessings of God. Everything belongs to God, doesn’t it? When we give, we’re just sharing God’s possessions with others. And God has lot’s of possessions, and He loves to share.
The Story Continues
The story of Ruth, continues with chapters 3 & 4. And we’ll see in these two chapters, how Ruth was truly welcomed into the family of Eli-me’-lek, and also into the family of our God.
Let’s begin reading chapter 3, verses 1 thru 5; “Then Naomi, her mother-in-law, said to her; My daughter, shall I not seek rest for you, that it may be well for you? And now, is not Boaz our kinsman, with whose maids you were. Behold, he winnows barley at the threshing floor tonight. Wash yourself therefore, and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes, and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. (So don’t let him know yet, that you’re there) And it shall be when he lies down, that you shall see the place where he lies, and you shall go and uncover his feet, and lie down. Then he will tell you what you shall do. And she said; All that you say, I will do.”
A little explanation might be in order here. When Naomi said to Ruth; “Shall I not seek rest for you, that it may be well for you?”, What she was saying, is that she should be trying to find a husband for Ruth. Someone who will take care of Ruth. And then Naomi says; “Is not Boaz our kinsman?” In other words, our family name could continue, through Boaz.
In Israel, a family name was of great importance. The family name should aways live on. One time, some Sadducees were reminding Jesus of a Jewish law pertaining to this. They said in Mathew 22, verse 24; “Teacher, Moses said; If a man dies, having no children, his brother, as next of kin, shall marry his wife, and raise up offspring to his brother.” So that was a law in Israel, that dates back to the time of Moses.
Ruth’s husband had died, without leaving her a son. But her husband’s brother had also died. In that case, it was the practice that the next closest relative, should have the right to choose to raise up an offspring for the deceased.
So Naomi says to Ruth; “Should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well for you? And is not Boaz a close relative?” Then she says to Ruth; Go to Boaz, where he’s working, threshing grain. And after he has had his supper, and after he retires for the night, go and lay yourself at his feet. “Uncover his feet” is what the scripture says. When men would work for days at the threshing floor, they stayed right there until the work was done. It was their custom, to sleep in their clothing. while they stayed at the threshing floor. Most of the time though, they wore what was called a “mantle”, over their clothes, as an outer garmnent. A mantle was simply like a cloak. So when they slept, they would remove their cloak, and they’d would remove their sandals, and then they’d simply throw that mantle, over their feet.
So Naomi told Ruth, to “uncover his feet”, in other words, lift up the mantle, and lie down under there, next to his feet. And then when Boaz wakes up, and sees who it is that has lied down at his feet, he’ll understand, that as a close relative, we are suggesting, that possibly Boaz, could redeem you as his wife.
Boaz had already showed his favoritism towards Ruth hadn’t he? That’s why he told her to remain in HIS fields and to glean with HIS maids. Boaz admired Ruth for how she had treated Naomi, and how she had been a faithful wife, to her late husband. Remember what Boaz had said in chapter 2, verse 11; “All that you have done for your mother-in-law, after the death your husband, has been fully reported to me. And how you left your father and mother, and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know. 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.”
Psalm 34:8 says; “O taste, and see, that the Lord is good. How blessed is the one who take refuge in Him.” “Taste the blessings of God. And in Nahum chapter 1, (there’s a book we don’t quote very often) Nahum 1, verse 7 says; “The Lord is good. A stronghold in the day of distress. And He knows those who take refuge in Him.”
All those who take refuge in God, become His family, don’t they? Just like we here, are the family of God.
We’re out of time again today, but next week, we’ll finish this story, and we’ll see how Boaz and Ruth become family. And we’ll see how that family, became a part of God’s family. They actually became a part of the family of Jesus Christ.
Do you know where all spiritual blessings are? Ephesians 1, verse 3 tells us that God has blessed us with, “every spiritual blessings in the heavenly places, IN Christ.”
Do you want to be blessed with every spiritual blessing? Then you need to be IN Christ. And to be IN Christ, you’ve got to HEAR His word, you’ve got to BELIEVE His word. You’ve got to repent of your sins, and confess His name. and you’ve got to be baptized in water, for the forgiveness of your sins.
And once you’ve done that, you’ve got to remain faithful for the rest of your life.
“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”
Please look for “The Story of Ruth – Part 3”, next week.