#RUTH’S SERVICE

Naomi and Ruth have travelled from the godless nation of the Moabites, back to Judah, where Ruth came from. Naomi returned with bitterness and despair in her heart, but Ruth simply came with trust and loyalty and the heart of a servant. This has started to work positively upon Naomi.

Ruth decides she will use the advantage of ‘gleaning’, the ancient Hebrew custom that graciously allowed the poor to come behind the labour doing a harvest, to pick up the scraps and grain left behind. A relative of Naomi, Boaz, is the owner of the land, and having heard all about the loyalty and attitude of Ruth, he is intrigues. He arranges to meet with her, and even instructs his labour to deliberately drop sheaves of wheat for her to collect up.

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Ruth 2:4-9 (NIV) **4 Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The Lord be with you!” “The Lord bless you!” they answered. 5 Boaz asked the overseer of his harvesters, “Who does that young woman belong to?” 6 The overseer replied, “She is the Moabite who came back from Moab with Naomi. 7 She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.’ She came into the field and has remained here from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.” 8 So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me. 9 Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the women. I have told the men not to lay a hand on you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.”**

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As we observe from verse 4, Boaz arrives at his field, to check up on his labour doing the harvest, and his first words to them are: “The Lord be with you!”

Imagine that in Waitrose or Thames Water, or heaven forbid, British Airways.

Anyway, Boaz spoke a godly blessing upon his workers, who laboured exposed to the elements – very hot sun in the summer – and his words were those of respect and treating them as important. It’s a practical demonstration of how godly character is supposed to show through every part of lives, private and public, home and work. Here was a man of authority who could command much of his hirelings, yet his authority was clothed with righteousness and kindness. It is probable that many other landowners were mean and threatening, simply wanting the maximum work for the least amount of pay, and their cruel labour practises demonstrated that their hearts were in the money, nit the people.

But not Boaz, he was different. He was a man of God, just like Ruth, who also had a godly character … and God was connecting them to each other for a purpose.

It was little wonder that Boaz’s workers loved him. He worked them hard, but fairly. He was approachable, and generous in his dealings with them. You can always tell the character of a person in authority by the way they relate to those they employ or manage or supervise.

A nasty boss, perhaps we could even call him an evil boss, will always treat subordinates badly. Sometimes having authority of people goes to a persons head, and they act badly.

Be kind. Be respectful. These are the characteristics God expects from any person who has been given authority over people. It may be an employee, it may be a subordinate worker, it may be your children. If I want to see your character, and if you want to see mine, look at the way we treat anyone we have or think we have authority over. Like a shop assistant, because I am spending my money there, or like the County Council, because they take my taxes, and so on.

I suppose the biggest proof of how have managed to reflect the character of Christ comes when we leave a place, or they do, and the reaction is either, ‘what a lovely boss or parent they were, I am going to sorely miss them,’ or ‘that is good riddance to bad rubbish, hope paths never cross again’.

Boaz had a godly character in the way he treated his subordinates. Ruth shows a godly character as she gleans in the harvest. How do we see this? Look at verse 7, and the way it describes how the supervisor of the harvest labour was so pleased with this woman doing the gleaning that he mentions her ethical and polite behaviour to Boaz.

“**She came into the field and has remained here from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.”**

Diligent and hard-working, she simply got down to the task, does her best, sticks to the rules, bothers nobody. Others may have been complaining but she did not. Others may have been lazy, but she was not. She may not have realise that others were watching her, noticing her, but they were. We know how that works, don’t we, because we are all archers and notices of things about people.

Those who were watching Ruth were getting a picture of the kind of a person she was, in her heart. First the harvesters, then their supervisor, and finally Boaz, the big boss.

I believe there is a Godliness in being prepared to get your head down and work well. To respect your peers and those over you, to live by a simple idea that being kind and respectful, giving your best as much as you can, is a perfect way to demonstrate your love of God and your commitment to His ways.

Certainly, we can sour this whole idea with the digression of mean bosses, unfair employment practises, and dishonest bosses, which are very real problems for many people, but none of them become excuses to not behave and work in ways that lets people see the Jesus in us instead of the us in us. In the same way that we observe and watch others, others are watching us. We can’t stop it. We can create a persona or act out a role for a time, but eventually the real us breaks through.

It can break through in the way we talk on the phone, or write an email, or post to Facebook. It can break through when we are having coffee at the village shop, or chatting to someone at the pub.

Sometimes, when I have done something less than holy or righteous, I whisper to myself, ‘imagine if Jesus had seen me do this or say that?’ Then I remember he was there all along. I cringe. I have no defence. I can only ask for forgiveness. Which God gives to all who ask him with a repentant heart. I wish all people would forgive like that too, but we don’t, we hold grudges, we try to score points, we try to show we are better than others.

The better way is to shine for God. To better understand how that works, try to remember how it is that we see a glorious full moon shining brightly in the sky? The moon is pretty cold, inert, lifeless. We see it because the sun exists. The bright sun sends its light out and as that light reflects off the surface of the moon, we get to see it. In God through us when they see the light of the son of God reflected in the way we work, the way we treat people, the way we respond to adversity.

In verses 8 and 9, Boaz speaks kindly to Ruth, and he makes a plan to ensure that she will be taken care of. He tells Ruth that she should not have to bother with trying to get permission to glean from other fields, because it’s ok with him for her to come as often as needed. Boaz is thinking so much further than just meeting her hunger needs.

1. In Boaz’s field, Ruth would find companionship (“Stay here with the women who worked for me.”)

2. In Boaz’s field, Ruth would find protection (“I have told the men not to lay a hand on you.”)

3. In Boaz’s field, Ruth would find refreshment (“Whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink fro the water jars the men have filled.”)

Ruth has found such unexpected blessings in the field of Boaz.

In fact, the kindness shown to Ruth by Boaz was just an initial reward for her self-sacrifice and humble service to her mother-in-law.

I do need to say that at this time there is absolutely no indication of any romantic attraction of Boaz to Ruth. For a start, she is seen as a class lower than his field labour. Also, the way she and Naomi were barely surviving meant she was probably dressed rather poorly, had no ointments or perfumes of any kind, and must have been smelly, sweaty and dusty from her hard work in the sun. Which makes it even more amazing that Boaz extends his kindness to a foreigner in his field, simply because he has heard of her excellent character.

The relationship does develop into a romantic attraction, but you will just have to keep coming on Sundays to get to that part.

I’ve married more than 600 couples in my years of ministry, and I have discovered how true it is to fully discover the character of your future spouse before you tie the knot. Rosie may have married me for my handsome good looks and super fit body, but I am afraid that was back then, and she has what she has now. Physical attraction is important but it is not a deal-breaker. However, flawed character should be an instant red flag.

There are some people who simply become more beautiful with age, take Rosie for instance, but for most of us, we have to cope with bodies that just … well they slowly deteriorate don’t they? But godly character is something that can just grow better and better, deeper and deeper, more and more attractive than it was last year. It is this inward beauty of a person that God is mostly interested in.

One of the ways we can express godly character is in the way we work. It might be paid work, work for ourselves, or voluntary work. The way we serve others is important to God. Let me share something from the New testament with you:

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 (NIV) **11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”**

It is interesting that the apostle urges us to study ‘being quiet,’ which really means do the work on yourself that will help you to have a calm and quiet temper. The reasoning is that it keeps us calm, and also helps many others to be also be calm and happy. I had to learn this in my life, for I used to be of extremely quick anger and outburst. It hurt me and hurt many others. Over a season the Holy Spirit gently led me to change. I think I could get very angry very quickly still, but for the Spirit of God who lives within me.

When we are busy-bodies, meddling in the affairs of others, we whip up a disturbance and create a storm. When we simply, diligently, quietly, reliably, get on with things, over time, the Lord is honoured and we witness to His glory.

It is true that when we decide to live this way, it will not stop the kinds of things that will tempt you badly. Office gossip will continue. Some people will still be nasty or dishonest or just plain ugly with their words and lifestyles. Sometimes you might wonder what on earth you are doing in a place, or situation, and you might start to grumble about it.

Philippians 2:14-15 (NIV) **14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.”**

GRUMBLING is such a lovely onomatopoeic word! Say it with me: GRUMBLING. Complaining, moaning, whining, bleating, carping, grouchy.

Born-again, spirit-filled followers of Jesus Christ must and can shine like stars in dark places. It is always about Jesus first. Jesus, head of the Church, is a leader without parallel. let me end with this thought about JESUS and the leaders of other major religions.

Buddha never claimed to be God.
Moses never claimed to be Jehovah.
Mohammed never claimed to be Allah.
Jesus Christ claimed to be the true and living God.

Buddha simply said, ’I am a teacher in search of the truth.’
Jesus said, ’I am the Truth.’

Confucius said, ’I never claimed to be holy.’
Jesus said, ’Who convicts me of sin?’

Mohammed said, ’Unless God throws his cloak of mercy over me, I have no hope.’
Jesus said, ’Unless you believe in me, you will die in your sins.’

Philippians 2:14-15 (NIV) **14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.”**

May the Lord use this word to touch your heart today, Amen.