October 26, 2014
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
Ruth 2: 1-13
“You Shall Receive a Bonus!”
Time – time is a priceless gift that comes from our Creator God! With this in mind I realize that our lesson this morning will take some time to explain. Our lesson from the Book of Ruth is rich with meaning. It is an important lesson – so the investment of a bit of our time, yours and mine, shall be beneficial to all who are willing to take this time to listen with an open heart and an open mind.
Today, we go back into ancient times before the time of Jesus. Jewish tradition says the Book of Ruth was written during the era around the time of Samuel or later; some scholars say somewhere between the third and fifth century Before Christ (B.C.) Either way it is has been named after the central character Ruth, she was a young widow of Moab, whom historical documents record as the great-grandmother of David, thus an ancestor of Jesus. /NIV Bible Study, Bible Study Tools/ Ruth was married to one of the two sons of Naomi, whom both die as-well-as Naomi’s husband at the start of the book. Sub-sequentially, Naomi chooses to travel from Moab into Judea, leaving behind her husband’s home country, and settles in Bethlehem, just at the time of the barley harvest.
“The importance of faithful love in human relationships among God’s people is underscored. The author focuses on Ruth’s unswerving devotion to desolate Naomi.” /NIV Study Bible, Bible Study Tools/ When Naomi decides to head toward Judea she tells her daughters-in-law that they ought go back to their homeland and remarry. But Ruth feels devoted to Naomi and vows to not leave her. In verses 16 & 17 we hear Ruth say these words: “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people; and your God my God. Where you die, I will die – there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!” /Bible Study Tools/
With this setting and backdrop we enter into this intriguing story of Ruth and her devotion to her mother-in-law Naomi. Ruth is a young woman – yet she chooses to invest her time out of love and respect for her mother-in-law Naomi. It is important for us to understand that during this time period a young fertile woman would want to be married and raise a family. In this case the death of her husband at such an early time in her life meant that she was still quite young, had not yet born any children and her youthfulness was her greatest asset. Naomi’s offer to release her back to her parents is a very generous one. Yet, Ruth makes a decision to give her time, this youthful fertile time of her life she dedicates to Naomi, as an offering; an offering of priceless value.
I read this beautiful article “People are like grits” within a book entitled ‘Marriage Monday’. Let me share with you a few lines of what I read: the author, Josh, begins by telling us that he is “Reminded of a story that John Ortberg tells about having breakfast with a friend. His friend was from Michigan and not well acquainted with southern (foods) quinine. So as they sit together, his comrade notices ‘grits’ on the menu. He then inquires of the waitress, “Ma’am, what’s a grit?” And the waitress replied, “Honey, they don’t come by themselves.” It is the same with us. “We don’t come by ourselves.” We are people in the midst of community. But, at times, we forget how chiefly important the relational aspect of our lives is.”
It would appear that Ruth has chosen her relationship with her mother-in-law over the opportunity to go back to her parents and once again have the real possibility of becoming someone’s wife once again. Yet, the story of Ruth suggests that she understood fully that the relationship she already had with Naomi and that it was worthy of her investment. She may not have seen it as an investment – however – she surely chose to cling to her mother-in-law. Thus, for all the right reasons chooses to invest her future in her loyalty and commitment to stay with Naomi and support her in every way.
The article in ‘Marriage Monday’ goes on and says: “We will never be happier than our relationships. Life offers many other pleasures, but if our relationships are in a bad place, our lives are in a bad place. We may attain a wealth of material possessions or achieve our highest aspirations, but all that life offers ultimately rings hollow if done so in isolation.” So many in our society today never gain the character; nor do they gain the understanding and perhaps the wisdom to raise-up the value of relationships in their life. They put worldly possessions, jobs and ambitions first; they use relationships as a stepping-stone rather than as a cherished possession. They place honor and loyalty behind their personal goals. There is so much we can learn from fully grasping this passage, this ancient accounting from the book of Ruth.
The article from ‘Marriage Monday’, which I have quoted from this morning, digs a bit deeper on this; very charitably I must say. Sometimes I do not feel all of God’s children have this intuitiveness that is referred to, rather there is oftentimes a total disconnect in peoples understanding of how important relationships can be. Yet our author puts this thought forward and I share it with you. “All of this is intuitive. We know how important our relationships are, but so often our lives become disconnected from what our minds and hearts know to be true. We affirm the idea that our families and friends are the upmost priority, but we easily allow our relationships to become out of sort. We become good at serving our spouse, kids, family, and friends our sloppy leftovers of time.” /’Marriage Monday’: “People are like grits”/ Looking to the power of example the story of Ruth offers us, it is quite apparent she was not offering her mother-in-law “sloppy leftovers!” Rather she was offering up the most precious gift of this youthful time in her life.
It is written so well in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 6, verse 21: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Through her generous spirit and willingness to invest in her time for a greater good, the wellbeing of her mother-in-lay, Ruth received in return the protection and favor from Boaz. And Boaz said unto her: “The LORD recompense you (repay you) for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” Boaz saw clearly how Ruth put her heart and her soul into her relationship and commitment to her mother- in-law Naomi.
Now as we look to what we have learned, we might ask ourselves: do we put our heart into our relationships and do our relationships come first before material possessions – before influence, power, and prestige? Let us take this in as food for thought, to provide nourishment for our very souls; as well as consider the practical aspect of investing our time in worthy endeavors.
The challenge for us in the 21st-century is not to debate ancient social laws, yet there is much that we can learn from this ancient story. There is much that we can incorporate into our own personal lives and our journeys as we look to the integrity, the loyalty, and the commitment that Ruth has shown in her relationship with her mother-in-law. We do this as we lift up the priceless gift of time; time which God has given us; Priceless indeed!
Look around you. How much of your time have you dedicated to the life of this faith fellowship? Have you invested in this community wisely? Look to those that have, especially the ones that never speak of their gift of time, nor do they complain about how much effort it takes. These are your living powers of examples! In your personal life, your family and your friends, who is it that is always there for you? Who is it that always has time for your questions? Who is it that always responds personally when you have a real need? These are your living powers of examples! Go and do likewise.
Moving forward we can take more time in our relationships, without needing them to serve our own agendas, our own needs, and yes there may be rewards for us in the future. There may be dividends and benefits that shall come out of our commitment. But only if we make the effort selflessly, giving of our time – without expectations of receiving something back!
Let us glean from this message – let us reap what has been sown – let us consider how we might – how we may improve our relationships with family friends and loved ones. Consider how we may improve our relationship with our church. We must ask ourselves: have we made true commitments and are we dedicated in our desire to move forward for the good of the other. Are we willing to offer up a bit of our time for the common good?
Yes, time is a valuable asset. It is a priceless gift from God! Use it wisely; use it to the grace of God; and your reward in heaven will be great! You shall receive a bonus you have not yet even dreamed!
Ruth 2: 1-13
1 Now Naomi had a kinsman on her husband’s side, a prominent rich man, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz.
2 And Ruth the Moabitess said to Na’omi, “Let me go to the field, and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.”
3 So she set forth and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers; and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Bo’az, who was of the family of Elim’elech.
4 And behold, Bo’az came from Bethlehem; and he said to the reapers, “The LORD be with you!” And they answered, “The LORD bless you.”
5 Then Bo’az said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose maiden is this?”
6 And the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, “It is the Moabite maiden, who came back with Na’omi from the country of Moab.
7 She said, ‘Pray, let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.’ So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, without resting even for a moment.”
8 Then Bo’az said to Ruth, “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my maidens.
9 Let your eyes be upon the field which they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to molest you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.”
10 Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, when I am a foreigner?”
11 But Bo’az answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before.
12 The LORD recompense you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!”
13 Then she said, “You are most gracious to me, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not one of your maidservants.”