Friday, May 25, 2012

Handfuls of Purpose

The Book of Ruth, A Love Story
Handfuls of Purpose
Ruth 2:4-17
And, behold, Boaz came from Beth–lehem, and said unto the reapers, The LORD be with you. And they answered him, The LORD bless thee.  Then said Boaz unto his servant that was set over the reapers, Whose damsel is this? And the servant that was set over the reapers answered and said, It is the Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi out of the country of Moab:  And she said, I pray you, let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves: so she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, that she tarried a little in the house.  Then said Boaz unto Ruth, Hearest thou not, my daughter?....Then she fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him, Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger? And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore. The LORD recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.  Then she said, Let me find favour in thy sight, my lord; for that thou hast comforted me, and for that thou hast spoken friendly unto thine handmaid, though I be not like unto one of thine handmaidens....And when she was risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, Let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not: And let fall also some of the handfuls of purpose for her, and leave them, that she may glean them, and rebuke her not. So she gleaned in the field until even, and beat out that she had gleaned: and it was about an ephah of barley.
A GLEANER is one who follows the reapers, to gather up the stray stalks of grain which have been passed by as the reapers tied the sheaves into bundles. The reapers, with their sickles, would first cut the grain, handful by handful, until they had enough for a bundle and then would tie it together to be brought to the threshing floor. Ruth, being diligent in her care of Naomi, was allowed to glean in the field of Boaz. Boaz notices Ruth in the field and asks, Whose damsel is   this? A servant answers Boaz and explains; “She is a Gentile widow, a member of a cursed race, the Moabites, penniless, who has come back with Naomi, her mother-in-law.”
Immediately, Ruth discovers how God provides for those who put their faith and trust in Him. God had prepared a field for Ruth, Ruth had prepared her heart; and now both were united by divine providence. Ruth had no ulterior motives in choosing the field belonging to Boaz, only a desire to help in the harvest and have food for her and Naomi. How wonderful is the provision God has made for the stranger, Ruth! How marvelous is His leading to bring Ruth to her future husband, Boaz! This is a true picture of God’s grace to those who are poor and needy.  Ruth was a stranger in the land with no inheritance, but through God’s grace He provided a way that Ruth would have what she needed most, REDEMPTION! 
Believing and obeying the Word of God brought new life to Ruth. Because she trusted and obeyed God’s Word she was removed from the pagan life she once knew and was placed among the people of God which would protect her, and abundantly supply all her needs by “handfuls of purpose.” When Ruth left home that morning for the barley fields, little did she know she would meet the owner of the field, Boaz or find favor in his sight. Ruth fell on her knees before Boaz and asked, “Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou should take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger?” (vs. 10)  What a beautiful picture of God’s grace in our lives. We, too, were strangers, pagans, who believed and obeyed God’s Word. When we turned from our sins to the Savior, we received forgiveness of sin, newness of life and promises that God would supply our every need by “handfuls of purpose.”
Thought: How wonderful it is to know that Boaz commanded his reapers to deliberately let whole handfuls of grain fall to the ground for Ruth to glean. I’m sure this was designed to keep poor Ruth from becoming discouraged or disheartened when gleanings seemed in short supply.  Boaz is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ, the supplier of all your needs. So, when life becomes difficult, and it seems that everything is disintegrating around you, remember, God sees your struggles and is still on the throne to give handfuls on purpose to all whom He loves and all whom He calls His own.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Harvest

The Book of Ruth, A Love Story
The Harvest
Ruth 2:1-3
And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband's, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz.  And Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter.  And she went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers: and her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech.
Naomi and Ruth have finally reached Bethlehem––Naomi is now home. We are not sure of the length of the journey from Moab to Bethlehem because the entire trip encompasses one short sentence: So they two went until they came to Beth–lehem (Ruth 1:19.) We are not told how many days they spent on the road to Bethlehem nor are we made aware of any troubles, trials, laughter or tears that may have occurred while making their pilgrimage home. We only know––they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest.
The arrival of Ruth and Naomi in Bethlehem came at a most opportune time. It was in the early spring they entered the barley fields of Bethlehem––which were ripe unto harvest. The long, hard winter was now over and the first new fruits of spring showed the celebrated coming of the barley harvest. Do you think that Ruth and Naomi had any idea what the Lord had in store for them when they arrived in Bethlehem? No, they didn’t and neither do we––how exciting it is to know that God has a plan for our lives. This great truth should encourage our hearts and cause us to trust Christ in each life changing experience He brings.
Ruth’s first response, as she entered Bethlehem, was to go out and glean in the fields. She did not wait for Naomi to go to the field to provide for her, but took the responsibility of caring for Naomi upon herself. Through God’s providential care, Ruth begins to glean in the field belonging to Boaz, a close relative to Naomi. Boaz could have been as close as a brother to Elimelech, and if not a brother, certainly within the tribe or clan. He was a wealthy man literally meaning, “a man of valor” one who had unusual ability to obtain and protect his property, and whose name means, “in him is strength.”
Ruth arrived in Bethlehem at barley harvest and immediately went into the harvest field to work. She found that through her hard work and participation in the harvest it would bring her long term benefits and all her needs would be supplied. Grace brought Ruth to Bethlehem, and through this act of obedience, it would give her cause to rejoice and bring her joy unspeakable for all eternity.
Thought:  In the book of Matthew chapter thirteen, the Lord gives a series of parables from the sowing of the seed until the end of the age and judgment. Here are some of the truths Jesus taught in these parables––The field is the world...the harvest is the end of the age...he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Ruth received God’s grace in her life and is a picture of the believer that realizes there are obligations that follow the gift of grace that has been given. Ruth was involved in the time of the barley harvest, going into the field to glean. We as Christians need to be busy in the field (the world) bringing the Gospel to a lost and dying world––sowing and watering the seed of the Word of God that men may hear the Good News and believe on Him.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Returning Home

The Book of Ruth, A Love Story
Returning Home in Bitterness
Ruth 1:19-22
So they two went until they came to Beth-lehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Beth-lehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi?  And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.  I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me? So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter in law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Beth-lehem in the beginning of barley harvest.
Review ~ The Moabites were idol worshippers and were steeped in polytheism (the worship of more than one god). Elemelich, a believer in JEHOVAH GOD, afraid that he and his family would starve to death in the land of Judah, took his family away from “The House of Bread” to the land of Moab, a cursed nation. Death takes hold of Naomi and her daughter’s-in-law––their husbands are gone and now they are all alone. A rumor is heard in the land of Moab, the famine is over in Bethlehem and soon Naomi longs to go back home. Ruth must have been influenced greatly by Naomi’s life and by her God for Ruth, a Moabite by birth, leaves her pagan gods for Naomi’s God, the One True and Living God, JEHOVAH, YAHWEH–The Self-Existent One. Ruth abandons all to journey with Naomi to her homeland.
As Naomi enters the city of Bethlehem, with Ruth by her side, the people of the city begin to move about asking, “Is this Naomi?” Ten years had gone by since Naomi lived there and they didn’t know the overwhelming effect that bitterness had produced in her. To those standing near she bitterly replied, “Don’t call me Naomi, which means, “pleasant,” but call me Mara, meaning, “bitter,” for the LORD has brought me home to Bethlehem absolutely empty, burdened and afflicted.
Satan wanted Naomi to focus on the negative, those areas of weakness where unforgiveness, anger, feelings of bitterness lived and would breed discouragement. She couldn’t think clearly when she focused on the lies of Satan. His lies divided her mind and caused her to shift the blame to God and of course, to others. Naomi’s bitterness was an attitude of deep discontentment that poisoned her soul and destroyed her peace. A bitter, sour Christian is one of Satan's greatest trophies and why the Bible says, "See to it…that no bitter root springing up trouble you, and there by many be defiled (Hebrews 12:15). If we continue to live in bitterness, this harmful condition will eventually pass on to others causing us to suffer immense negative effects. 
Thought: How do you deal with bitterness? Confess it to God, and seek His forgiveness and help. On the cross, Christ took upon Himself every sin you ever committed—including your bitterness. No matter its cause, commit your bitterness to God, and ask Him to replace it with the Holy Spirit's fruit of "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23).  Bitterness is the exact opposite of every one of these and it will flee when the Spirit’s fruit fills your heart and mind.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Depth of Love

The Book of Ruth, A Love Story
The Depth of Love
Ruth 1:11-18
And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?  Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons; Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD is gone out against me. And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.  And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law.  And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.
As the love story unfolds, picture these women traveling along the road toward Bethlehem. Their hearts are broken by death, they’re in despair and somewhat afraid. Naomi stops them on their journey and lovingly reminds them of the reality of their devastated lives. She relays to them that she has no more children for them to marry and if she would have children, they would be too young to marry, they would be better off going home to their families then to continue with her.
Orpah, showing great love for Naomi, kisses her mother-in-law good-bye and with tears streaming down her cheeks, walks away This is a pivotal decision in Orpah’s life––to return to her homeland and unto her gods. Ruth is grieved and weeps as Orpah disappears forever out of their sight––not to be seen again. This must have been an overwhelming moment in the lives of these dear women. With already so much tragedy, suffering and heartache they have endured, to know Orpah, would cease to exist in their lives from this time forward would seem unbearable.
Ruth, on the other hand, cleaves to her mother-in-law, expressing words of love and devotion to Naomi and to her God. Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: These are words that have been read at wedding ceremonies, immortalized in music and written in poetry. Ruth’s words confirm her devoted love for Naomi but most importantly, they show Ruth’s obvious conversion from worshipping Chemosh to the God of Israel, JEHOVAH.
We need to note the character that Ruth displayed in her choice to abandon the god, Chemosh,  seeing the complete humility she embodies in her decision to follow Naomi as an alien and stranger in the land of Bethlehem, Judah. Ruth was a product of a disgraced and degraded race, the Moabites. The race began with an incestuous act between Lot and his daughters in a cave outside the fallen city of Sodom. Who could do anything with an ancestry such as that? Who but God, could take fallen man, a sinner, and change them by His wonderful, transforming grace.
The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 2 about the hopelessness of the Gentiles in their degradation: They were . . . “Dead in their trespasses and sins . . .  children of disobedience .  .  . fulfilling the desires of the flesh . . .  children of wrath . . . aliens . . . strangers . . . with no hope . . . and without God.”  All seemed so despairingly hopeless then, Paul, with these life giving words, stirs up hearts in saying: But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:4-9).
Thought:  If you have ever wondered how God could save such a sinner as you, as Ruth, or for that matter, any fallen man, remember, you will never understand the meaning of the cross, or understand why Jesus had to die, or understand what His death means until you understand how deep His love truly is. A transcendent love, an extreme sacrifice Christ was willing to pay to accomplish your eternal salvation. Christ is why you are loved with an everlasting love that will not let you go.

O Love That Will Not Let Me Go
by George Mattheson
O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life's glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.
 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand (John 10:28).