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Provision



Provision

Joshua Masters |

Living in gratitude for God's provision and providence in every area of our lives helps us harvest a life of hope.








Harvesting a Life of Hope • Message 2 • Provision
Joshua J. Masters
May 24, 2019

MEMORIAL DAY

Welcome back. I’m so glad you’re able to join us today.

 

As you know, this is Memorial Day weekend, and before we get to our message today, I want to take a moment to honor that.

 

During this Pandemic, we’ve gotten just the tiniest reminder that our freedom is more fragile than we’d like to think it is. Memorial Day gives us the opportunity to remember the American men and women who have given their lives for that freedom.

 

We know this can be a difficult weekend for many of those who have served and for families as you remember those who you’ve lost. We may not be able to know how you feel, but we do care and we mourn with you.

 

I invite everyone to join me in a moment of silence followed by a prayer in remembrance of the fallen.

 

<PRAYER>

 

Thank you for taking that moment with me.

Never forget.

 

 

MESSAGE INTRODUCTION

 

Okay, today we continue our series on the Book of Ruth called Harvesting a Life of Hope.

 

Can you see God’s fingerprints in your life, even when you don’t hear His voice?

 

Last week, we learned how Elimelech and his family moved away from the provision and protection of God to the land of Moab.

 

Then Elimelech and his two sons died, leaving his wife, Naomi a widow with no way to care for her or her two daughters-in-law.

 

One daughter-in-law went back to Moab, but Ruth stayed with Naomi and dedicated her life to the God of Israel.

 

This family was in crisis, but what we found was that God had been silently working through the entire chapter to bring them home.

 

Chapter one was all about how we can see the fingerprints of God’s work in our crisis, and how we respond to that crisis.

 

But just like God’s fingerprints, God’s provision is everywhere in our lives too.

 

And that’s what we’ll look at in Chapter 2.

 

Can you recognize how God is providing for you and respond with gratitude?

 

The key to harvesting a life of hope is humble gratitude for what God has already done. (repeat)

 

Now, I normally like to have a nice 3 or 4 point message, but not today.

 

God provides in so many ways, that we’re going to do a rapid-fire list of 8 points…

 

So sharpen your pencils and if you’re taking notes in our Brookwood App, limber up those thumbs.

 

Here we go.

 

BODY OF MESSAGE

 

--Ruth, Chapter 2. (turn or swipe there).
--If you’re watching in our Online Campus, you can follow along by clicking the Bible tab in your chat window.

--And if you’re watching on another platform, you can either use the Brookwood App, or just relax and we’ll put the verses up on the screen.

 

When we last left our heroines, they had just arrived in Bethlehem.

 

Ruth is optimistic, Naomi—not so much. If you remember, she told everyone to stop calling her Naomi and start calling her Mara (which means bitter) because she believed God had caused her to suffer.

 

Let’s back up one verse to the end of chapter 1 and then continue on…

 

So Naomi returned from Moab, accompanied by her daughter-in-law Ruth, the young Moabite woman. They arrived in Bethlehem in late spring, at the beginning of the barley harvest.
Ruth 1:22 (NLT)

 

Chapter 2, verse 1:

Now there was a wealthy and influential man in Bethlehem named Boaz, who was a relative of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech. One day Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go out into the harvest fields to pick up the stalks of grain left behind by anyone who is kind enough to let me do it.” Naomi replied, “All right, my daughter, go ahead.”
Ruth 2:1–2 (NLT)

 

In these few opening words, we see the first two points in our list—8 ways God provides for us.

 

We harvest a life of hope by having gratitude for God’s provision of…
1. PROVIDENCE

 

Now, providence is a pretty churchy sounding word, and I usually try to avoid that.

 

But the reason you don’t hear that word outside the church very often is because only God HAS providence.

 

So what is providence?

Don’t confuse God’s sovereignty with His providence.

 

Sovereignty is about His power and authority.

 

But providence is how He uses that power and authority—His will and plan.

 

Providence is God’s all-knowing work.

Or, if you prefer our phrase from last week, God’s fingerprints.

 

It means that God is working all the time—that even when we don’t see wonders or hear His voice, God is silently working in the events of everyday life.

 

Providence is the source of His provision for us.

 

You can see it here…

Naomi and Ruth arrive JUST as the first harvest is about to begin.

They’re in danger of starving, but they get to Bethlehem just as there’s about to be a surplus of food.

 

And it’s a small detail, but God’s clearly provided them a place to stay, right?

That’s providence.

 

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So, they’ve just arrived in Bethlehem, and Ruth says, “I’m going to go glean from someone’s field—anyone who will let me—so we can eat.”

 

And so she goes to a seemingly “random” field, but it’s not random at all.

 

Look at God’s providence in verse 3:

So Ruth went out to gather grain behind the harvesters. And as it happened, she found herself working in a field that belonged to Boaz, the relative of her father-in-law, Elimelech.
Ruth 2:3 (NLT)

 

Of all the fields in Bethlehem, she “happens” to end up in the field of a rich relative she’s never met.

 

And that phrase, “And as it happened” is too subtle in English.

The actual Hebrew is closer to “By her chance, she chanced”

It’s like saying, Luckily, her luck was luckied.

 

The author is purposefully trying to be absurd… he’s actually winking at us.

 

It’s as close as the author can get to using air quotes, “She just ‘HAPPENED’ to show up in Boaz’s field”

 

We’ll see more of God’s fingerprints as we go along—but that brings us to number two:

 

We harvest a life of hope by having gratitude for God’s provision of…
2. PEOPLE

 

Are you grateful for the people God’s put in your life?

 

As we talked about last week, we have to evaluate your relationships.

 

There may be people in our lives that are toxic… and they have to go… or at least have healthy boundaries.

 

But God is constantly putting people in your path to represent Him in your life.

 

Are you looking for those people and are you grateful for them?

 

He put Ruth in Naomi’s path, and now God is about to put Boaz in the path of Ruth.

 

**God uses people to provide for others.

 

Ruth says she’s going to go glean behind the harvesters, right?

 

The reason she could do that is because of the gleaning laws God gave His people to care for others.

 

God required every farmer to leave the edges of their fields unharvested for foreigners and the poor.

 

On top of that, the farmer could only make one pass in the harvest. Everything they missed was also to be left for those in need.

 

Now, I’ve heard pastors say that this was Israel’s welfare system.

 

And while that’s technically true, I think it cheapens what’s really going on here.

 

God was teaching the farmers generosity.

God was providing for those in need.

But most of all, this law was put in place to remind them that God is the true landowner.
They were His crops, not theirs.

 

Do you live your life as if everything you have belongs to God?

 

Because as we learn to be grateful for what God provides, we begin to share more and more of it to care for people in need.

 

This law was supposed to remind the people of Israel (and it’s supposed to remind us) that God’s people can and should meet all the needs of those who are suffering.

 

I have no desire to make anyone feel guilty, but Relevant magazine reported that if every Christian gave regularly—in just five years, the church could wipe out illiteracy, relieve global hunger, bring clean water to the world, fully fund all overseas missions, and have $100 Billion left for local ministries. That’s just by leaving 10% of our fields for those in need… Actually, God’s fields that He let’s us oversee.

But we in the American Church have largely harvested our fields for ourselves, when just the very edges of what we have could provide for every need in our communities.

 

You know, I’ve seen a lot of believers on social media complaining about government overreach and welfare programs.

 

But the truth is, if we truly lived by this principle, the body of Christ could care for everyone, and there’d be no need for government programs.

 

Yes, God sometimes performs miracles of provision, but most often He does His work through other people.

Do we want to be part of that?

 

Sometimes we’re called to be Ruth and sometimes we’re called to be Boaz.

 

Be grateful for the people God puts in your life to provide for you and then be that person for someone else.

 

Let’s keep reading. Verse 4:

While she was there, Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters. “The Lord be with you!” he said. “The Lord bless you!” the harvesters replied. Then Boaz asked his foreman, “Who is that young woman over there? Who does she belong to?” (or who does she work for)
Ruth 2:4–5 (NLT)

 

Okay. A couple of things here.

 

First, there’s another wink here from the author in Hebrew. Ruth “just happens” to show up in Boaz’s field on the day Boaz “just happens” to visit that same field.

 

That’s God’s providence, God’s fingerprints.

 

Second, we get a glimpse of Boaz’s character.

 

Boaz is a rare person in Scripture because he’s one of very few people in the Bible that is only portrayed in a positive light.

 

He had flaws, obviously, but they’re not mentioned.

 

The Hebrew in verse one calls Boaz, “a man of valor” (important next week)

 

In a time when most people in Israel have walked away from God,
Boaz is clearly a man of faith,

He has a good, godly relationship with his workers, and He knows them.

 

There are other women working in the field, but immediately, Boaz says “Who’s that one person I don’t recognize.”

 

Verse 6:

And the foreman replied, “She is the young woman from Moab who came back with Naomi. She asked me this morning if she could gather grain behind the harvesters. She has been hard at work ever since, except for a few minutes’ rest in the shelter.”
Ruth 2:6–7 (NLT)

 

Here’s another person God has put in Ruth’s life.

 

The foreman could have said, “Oh, who’s that? That’s just another foreigner, a dirty Moabite.”

 

But, no. God prepared someone who would give a positive report to Boaz.

--Someone who would notice how hard she’d been working all day.

--Someone who would see her character over her circumstances.

 

Now, notice how the foreman points out that Ruth asked permission to glean.

 

We harvest a life of hope by having gratitude for God’s provision of…
3. PERMISSION

 

Why did the foreman point out that Ruth asked for permission to glean?

 

He’s pointing out something about her character, about her humility.

 

The law required them to let her glean.

Ruth could have shown up with her copy of Leviticus and said, “In accordance with chapter 19, sub-section 9, I am demanding my right to glean here. I’ll take that corner over there.”

 

But she doesn’t do that.

She has the right to be there but her character, values respect and submission over personal gain.

 

Do you realize that anything you’ve accomplished in life comes from God’s permission?

 

Anything you’ve gleaned in this world—In fact, every new breath we take is granted by God’s permission.

 

God allows us to work as a reflection of Him.

And everything we do broadcasts our character to a broken world.

 

Are we broadcasting the same character we see in Ruth here?

 

Are we more interested in asserting our rights or reflecting the character of God in us?

 

Do we come before God with demands or for permission to move forward?

<><>

Now, when we talk about the word “provision” most people think of our next two fill-ins.

 

I’m going to give you both of them because they appear together in the text.

 

We harvest a life of hope by having gratitude for God’s provision of…
4. PHYSICAL NEEDS

5. PROTECTION

 

Verse 8:

Boaz went over and said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Stay right here with us when you gather grain; don’t go to any other fields. Stay right behind the young women working in my field. See which part of the field they are harvesting, and then follow them. I have warned the young men not to treat you roughly. And when you are thirsty, help yourself to the water they have drawn from the well.”
Ruth 2:8–9 (NLT)

 

This is actually incredible. Ruth is a foreigner, a widow, and she’s destitute.

 

This is not the kind of person who gets special favor in Israel, but Boaz says “Don’t go anywhere else. I’m putting you under my protection. You don’t even have to walk to the well to draw your own water. Drink our water.”

 

And then Boaz gives strict orders that the men are not to touch her.

 

As we talked about in last week’s message, the time of the judges (when this takes place) was filled with despicable immorality.

 

She would not have been safe in another field.

 

Now, let’s see how Ruth responds to his kindness. Verse 10:

Ruth fell at his feet and thanked him warmly. “What have I done to deserve such kindness?” she asked. “I am only a foreigner.” “Yes, I know,” Boaz replied. “But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers. May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.” “I hope I continue to please you, sir,” she replied. “You have comforted me by speaking so kindly to me, even though I am not one of your workers.”
Ruth 2:10–13 (NLT)

 

Ruth can’t understand why Boaz is responding according to her needs rather than her station.

 

She says, “I don’t deserve this much kindness.”

 

And you know what? It may rock our modern sensitivities but she was right.

Based on their stations in that time and culture, she didn’t deserve the grace she’d been shown.

 

Do we approach God’s grace with the same kind of humility Ruth is showing here?

 

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is mankind that You are mindful of them, human beings that You care for them?
Psalm 8:3–4 (NIV)

 

Do we understand how undeserving we are of His grace?

 

Or have we developed a sense of entitlement to the things He’s given us?

 

Do we even recognize what He’s given us?

 

Yes, we’ve had a hard time finding beef during this pandemic, but Ruth and Naomi could have lived for months on what most of us already have in our cupboards.

 

We’ve grown so accustom to God’s extreme provision that we’re no longer grateful.

 

God has given us so much that we no longer recognize the miracles that are all around us, so we continue to ask for bigger and greater wonders.

And:

While we’re looking for a feeding of the 5,000 miracle, we miss the miracle that’s already in our pantry.

 

Before we move off this section, let me say this:

 

When we start receiving from God with the humility and gratitude of Ruth, we’ll start giving like Boaz.

 

Who has God put in your path to show unexpected favor to?

 

Who is God calling you to provide for beyond their expectation?

 

Boaz saw how God worked in HIS fields and he used those blessings to respond to someone else’s crisis.

 

Don’t miss this:

Crisis is the mission field of the church.

 

When crises like this pandemic come, our first response should never be “What will we do? How will we meet?”

 

Our first response should be, “This is what we’ve been training for…

Let’s get out into the field and see who needs us.”

 

Boaz has gone above and beyond. No one would have expected him to do this much for a foreigner.

 

So, you know what he does next?

He gives more.

 

Verse 14:

At mealtime Boaz called to her, “Come over here, and help yourself to some food. You can dip your bread in the sour wine.” (It was likely something closer to hummus, but this gesture was a great honor, a sign of great favor)
So she sat with his harvesters, and Boaz gave her some roasted grain to eat. She ate all she wanted and still had some left over.

Ruth 2:14 (NLT)

 

It’s hard to grasp this in our culture. But in this time, you didn’t invite people below your station to dine with you.

 

But Boaz has invited her to his table.

The other Israelites would have mocked and ridiculed him for this.

 

But Boaz chooses compassion and acceptance over culture.

 

You know who else invites less desirables to sit at His table? Jesus Christ.

 

We harvest a life of hope by having gratitude for God’s provision of…
6. PERFECT ACCEPTANCE

 

Ruth didn’t deserve to sit at that table, and we don’t deserve to sit at the table we’ve been invited to.

 

There’s a difference between acceptance and perfect acceptance.

 

Perfect acceptance is without reservation because,

Perfect acceptance isn’t based on the worthiness of the guest. It’s based on the character of the host.

 

And when we wipe away our entitlement and see how unworthy we are to sit at Christ’s table, we’ll begin to invite others to ours.

 

Who has God called you to show perfect acceptance to?

 

When was the last time you invited someone to your table that you disagree with or someone’s who is different from you?

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So what happened after lunch? Verse 15:

When Ruth went back to work again, Boaz ordered his young men, “Let her gather grain right among the sheaves without stopping her. And pull out some heads of barley from the bundles and drop them on purpose for her. Let her pick them up, and don’t give her a hard time!” So Ruth gathered barley there all day, and when she beat out the grain that evening, it filled an entire basket.
Ruth 2:15–17 (NLT)

 

Most scholars agree that the “basket” here was about 5 gallons of edible barley. That’s a ridiculous amount.


The average person gleaning on their own without this favor MIGHT have left with a gallon.

 

We harvest a life of hope by having gratitude for God’s provision of…
7. PLENTY

 

God wants to give you more than you deserve and more than you can gather on your own.

 

In fact, most of us already have more than what we deserve.

 

Do you think you’ve gathered it on your own?

Or is God purposefully dropping things in your path?

 

And what does Ruth do after she received all that favor from Boaz?

Does she act ashamed to receive the gift? No.

Does she kick back with in entitlement and expect more? No.

 

She goes back to work.

 

Ruth strikes that perfect balance between effort and gratitude for what she’d been given.

 

You know, Philippians 2:12 says:

“…work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12b NIV)

 

That verse has confused a lot of people.
--How can you work out your salvation?

--Isn’t it by grace?

--I thought I couldn’t earn my salvation?

 

You can’t.

But I think Ruth gives us a beautiful example here of how we work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

 

“work out your salvation” can be better translated “show the results of your salvation.”

And “fear and trembling” can be translated “with awe and reverence.”

 

Ruth couldn’t achieve what she’d been given—no matter how hard she worked.

 

But her response to that grace was to do everything in her power to be productive in that grace—out of humility, awe, and reverence for the one who had rescued her.

 

How do you respond to all you’ve been given?

<><> 

So Ruth works all day, and she takes her rewards home to her starving, bitter mother-in-law, Naomi.

 

Verse 18:

She carried it back into town and showed it to her mother-in-law. Ruth also gave her the roasted grain that was left over from her meal. “Where did you gather all this grain today?” Naomi asked. “Where did you work? May the Lord bless the one who helped you!”

Ruth 2:18–19a (NLT)

 

So Naomi is at home, probably stewing in her bitterness. Remember, she believes God has raised His fist against her (Ruth 1:13).

 

And in walks Ruth with a doggie bag of roasted food and gallons upon gallons of barley.

 

Naomi, who was overwhelmed with grief is suddenly overwhelmed with provision.

“Who helped you with all this?”

 

So Ruth told her mother-in-law about the man in whose field she had worked. She said, “The man I worked with today is named Boaz.”

Ruth 2:19b (NLT)

 

And you can almost see Naomi’s eyes grow wide and her heart thaw…

 

“May the Lord bless him!” Naomi told her daughter-in-law. “He is showing his kindness to us as well as to your dead husband.

 

That man is one of our closest relatives, one of our family redeemers.”

 

Then Ruth said, “What’s more, Boaz even told me to come back and stay with his harvesters until the entire harvest is completed.”

 

“Good!” Naomi exclaimed. “Do as he said, my daughter. Stay with his young women right through the whole harvest. You might be harassed in other fields, but you’ll be safe with him.”

 

So Ruth worked alongside the women in Boaz’s fields and gathered grain with them until the end of the barley harvest. Then she continued working with them through the wheat harvest in early summer. And all the while she lived with her mother-in-law.

Ruth 2:20–23 (NLT)

 

And suddenly, Naomi sees that God hadn’t abandoned her at all—He’s been working to rescue them the whole time.

 

Because what Ruth didn’t even know the whole time she was working, is that Boaz is not just a generous man of God, but he’s also one of their family redeemers.


Now, we’re almost out of time so we’ll dive into the Family Redeemer next week.

 

But what’s important here for right now is that Naomi and Ruth are starting to see in their own story, what we’ve seen all along.

 

That we can find hope in seeing the fingerprints of God in our lives.

 

We harvest a life of hope by having gratitude for God’s…
8. PROVIDENCE

 

Yes, that’s the same fill-in as the first one.

 

And that’s because this story begins and ends with God’s providence.

 

Even when Naomi thought God was working against her, He was working for her.

 

Without God arranging things for their rescue, there’s no way Ruth returns home with this much food only to be told that the man who gave her all this favor may very well save their family.

 

God continues to work silently in their lives… and He’s not done.

And you need to know,

He’s not done in your life either.

 

Are you looking for where God is working? And are you responding with gratitude?

 

Let’s pray.

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