DiscipleHER: Ruth

RuthPicture

Ruth: Gleaning in Fields of Grace

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6)

Read Ruth 1-4

“Love the Lord Your God with all your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your mind and with all your strength” and “Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31 NIV)

Without loving God, we cannot love others well. The two are hand in hand. Love for God pours out in love for others. Love for God and others is the “personal attachment that shapes our whole life”. Love is what makes us disciples of Jesus Christ. Ruth’s life shows us what a true disciple looks like. The more I studied Ruth, the more clearly I saw the character of a disciple in her. We will be looking at these 4 qualities in Ruth to highlight discipleship further:

Devoted: Ruth left everything to go with Naomi to Bethlehem. She was “all in”. Determined and decisive, Ruth committed herself entirely to Naomi. Why? Clearly, she loved Naomi, but look closer, there is more. Within her determined intent, we see not only her love for Naomi, but also, her firm faith in God. Somewhere along the line in Moab Ruth had developed faith in the One True Living God. She makes a strong profession of faith, “Your God will be my God” and makes a vow to the Lord, “May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely if anything but death separates you and me”. It is her faith (her love for God) that fueled her love and loyalty to Naomi.

What impressed me most about Ruth’s devotion is the fact that she was also dealing with significant loss. Naomi’s losses kind of overshadow this fact. Ruth had also lost her husband and had no children – no sons to continue the family line, and no one to care for her needs. The fact is Ruth’s life was not going according to plan. How do we respond in such times? Aren’t these exactly the times when our faith is most tested, where we are most tempted to falter, or “sit down” in our belief? At very least, we question, we doubt. It is human nature is to pull back, self-preserve, protect. To be concerned for our own real and legitimate needs. But not Ruth. She is able to consider Naomi’s needs above her own. To entrust herself to God to meet her own needs. Ruth put her life entirely in His hands.

Where do you struggle to trust God with your life? Where do you struggle to devote yourself to the people God has given you? To put their needs above your own? Life is harder than we ever imagined, isn’t it? Look particularly to those hard places where life is not going according to your plan. Notice the things that compete with your devotion to God. What steps can you take to commit yourself to God in those places?

Diligent: Ruth was a hard-worker. In Chapter 2, Ruth says “let me go and work the fields”.  Ruth sets right to the task of gathering food and providing for Naomi and herself. This was not glamorous work. Field work was back-breaking work with long hours in terrible conditions with very little reward. How does Ruth go about her work? The others in the field take notice – they tell Boaz “she has worked steadily, has not stopped working”. Observably, others are impressed with Ruth’s remarkable work ethic.

I want to talk about our “work” in two ways. First, our sense of “calling” as disciples of Christ. Often, in reference to calling we think of big things we want to do for God, or feel He is leading us in. There is nothing wrong with wanting to serve the Lord in public. But today, I want to talk about our private work. The work that lies nearest to us – our responsibilities in our own homes to our husbands, children, and families.

Are we diligent in our work there, in the mundane, unseen places?

What we are to God in private determines our worth to Him in public.

We are co-laborers in His field, and He calls us first to diligently serve him here – where there is little notice, or public praise. Years ago, I hear this call from the Lord, sitting at a women’s conference much like you are now. We were studying a passage about taking care of a vineyard, and the comment was made that a woman had busied herself with taking care of other people’s vineyards to the point that she had neglected her own. At that moment, the Lord said to me, “take care of your vineyard” (family) and that began a multi-year process of stepping out of my Corporate Director-level job and coming home to love and serve my family. If you would have said to me then that my life would become a homeschooling mother with no direct means of income, I would have laughed out loud at the craziness of it! And I have spent much time adjusting to this new reality. My attitude to my work, at times, has not been exemplary or worthy of notice. I’ve struggled to be diligent in private, and to let go of the public.

The second way I want to talk about our “work” is in reference to the Scriptures. The Word of God is our field -“fields of grace”. Jesus is “a pearl of great price”, and His Word is a harvest of spiritual blessing and abundance.

How do we approach our work in the field of His Word? Are we diligent in our study? Do we search for Him as for silver and hidden treasure?

“The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry but he thwarts the craving of the wicked. Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth. He who gathers crops in summer is a wise son, but who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son” (Proverbs 10: 3-5).

Ruth found unexpected favor and blessing in the fields. Boaz fed her, gave her preference in working in his fields, and gave her extra grain to take home to Naomi. Ruth went home satisfied with left overs! This is what we can expect when we will diligently seek God in His Word – we will be satisfied and glean more than all we can ask or imagine! The Lord gives abundantly – in Him we have every spiritual blessing!

Delightful: To delight means to be “highly pleasing, satisfying, eagerly compliant”. The word also means to be “pliable – moldable”.

“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4 NIV).

In this context, it means to be teachable. Ruth was humble and willing to be taught. She readily responded to teaching without pride or pretension.  She responded to Naomi’s instructions to go to Boaz at the threshing floor in chapter 3 by saying, “I will do whatever you say”. When we delight ourselves in God in His Word, he disciplines our desires– re-shapes them to right desires, the truest desires of our hearts. I see this in my own testimony of “taking care of my vineyard”. The rewards are far greater and more deeply satisfying. This is true fulfillment in life. Through her teachable spirit and obedience, Ruth found a husband, a home, and a son – an heir in the lineage of Jesus! (Chapter 4) Eternal – fruit that lasts!

Where do you resist God’s Word? Have trouble living out His commands in the light? Stumble over pride or pretense? How do you feel about the word “obedience” and its implications in your life? Take those areas to Him in prayer – ask Him to give you a heart that delights in His Word, quick to listen and obey in all that He tells you.

Daring: Lastly, Ruth went to Boaz and lay at his feet in a bold marriage proposal (Chapter 3). By laying down, she showed her dependence upon him. It took courage to put herself in the most lowly and submissive position – at his feet. Boaz was moved deeply that she acted so counter culturally. Ruth did not chase after younger men as most widows would have. She lay down at the foot of her kinsman-redeemer.

“Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold” (2 Cor. 3:12 NIV). “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16 NKJV).

Do we dare to be so counter-cultural in our day? When we are sorely tempted to chase after so many things in the rush and hurry and busy of life? When we find it so impossible to “unplug” at all? How do you spend your time? Do you take the time to stop and lay down at the feet of your Redeemer? How regularly do you submit yourself entirely to Him, asking Him to move redemptively in you? There are so many things clamoring for our attention – for our devotion, our diligence, our delight. Do we have the courage to be so decidedly different?

Ruth was a disciple committed to loving the Lord with her heart, soul, mind, and strength. She shows us a heart devoted in love and loyalty, a daring soul willing to boldly submit at the feet of her redeemer, a teachable mind delighting in the Lord, eager to obey, and diligent in her work – focusing all her energy and strength to the task at hand. “Hand to the plow, no turning back!” (Luke 9:62)

And look what God did through Ruth! Ruth’s life reflects the Sovereign Hand who guides us in the way of discipleship, who meets us in our devotion, diligence, delight, and daringness. His divine providence meets us through faith and pours out more than all we can ask or imagine in His great grace! We pray that Ruth has “come alive” before you, and awakened your hunger and thirst for more of God. He promises you will be filled. He makes us people who cultivate relationships that bring life – gospel-centered relationships that reflect the ways of Jesus.