Sermon series: Building Lasting Relationships - Ruth
Lets talk about heritage [see Ruth 4:18-22 - Boaz' and Ruth's heritage].
Bowing before the "god of open-mindedness," this generation has been slow to admit that what we believe determines how we act. PBS film critic and columnist Michael Medved shared this anecdote out of his Jewish heritage:
"A few years ago, the illustrious Rabbi Jacob Kamenetzky made a trip to Israel accompanied by his teenage grandson. Ironically, these two deeply religious people had been seated in the airplane next to a prominent Israeli socialist leader and outspoken atheist, who had spent his whole life fighting against Orthodox values.
"After the plane reached its cruising altitude, the cynical atheist traveler couldn't help noticing the way the teenage boy attended to the needs of his aged, bearded grandfather. He got up to get the old man a glass of water, helped him remove his shoes and put on some slippers, and otherwise demonstrated that the rabbi's comfort represented his primary concern.
"At one point, as the boy got up for yet another errand on behalf of the old man, the skeptical stranger could contain himself no longer. 'Tell me something,' he asked the rabbi. 'Why does your grandson treat you like some kind of a king? I have a grandson, too, but he wouldn't give me the time of day.'
"'It's very simple,' the old man replied. 'My grandson and I both believe in a God who rules the universe and created all things, including the first man. That means that in the boy's eyes, I'm two generations closer to the hand of God Himself. But in the eyes of your grandson, you're just two generations closer to a monkey.'" [Preacher's Goldmine CD]
The difference was a godly heritage. The Rabbi understood that he was building a heritage - he was a heritage builder. There is direct link between the values we embrace and the heritage we leave. In order for a heritage builder to dedicate the home to God, he or she must make several commitments.
I. I will love you regardless of what we face – 4:1-10
Here we see the foundation of relationships. We live in a throw-away world. We love for the moment. Once something or someone grows too familiar we tend to discard or devalue it. We then search for someone or something new to excite us. But the truth is this: beauty fades, waistlines expand, hair changes both color and location, and health diminishes. Yet love says, "I will love you regardless."
A. Regardless of the past we lived
Ruth was a foreigner that had worshiped strange gods in strange ways. Despite her demonstration of moral character, she had a past. Yet she turned her life over to God and received a fresh start.
B. Regardless of the people we meet
We are all affected by the people that come into our lives. Those people tend to fall into four categories:  Those that ignore us,  those that hurt us,  those that hinder us, and  those that help us. As a result of someone else's actions, many adolescents limp into adulthood with deep scars. Others find themselves living with the pain of "grown-up" failures. Love, however, doesn't reject someone because of the pain others inflicted.
C. Regardless of the problems we face
What kinds of problems will we face in our relationships?
Communication problems - you will be misunderstood.
Expectation problems - you will disappoint each other.
Financial problems - you may struggles to pay the bills and find monetary security.
Moral problems - you will stumble and make mistakes.
Health problems - eventually your health will fade and you will die.
Ruth Bell Graham tells of visit to her elderly parents. When she arrived Dr. Bell was kneeling by the bed as he tried to put stockings on his ailing wife. Naturally, Ruth moved to assist. But he said to his daughter, "The greatest honor of my life is caring for your mother." Now that is a heritage builder.
II. I will walk with God and be an example of faith – 4:11-12
Here we see the devotion of Boaz. Notice the text that those who blessed Boaz focused on God. He had a reputation for deep and evident faith to all that knew him. He was the kind of man that could say to his wife and children, "You can repeat anything I say. You can do anything that I do. You can go anywhere I go. You can see anything I can see." If you study his life closely you will see that Boaz followed the pattern of faith that Moses commanded in Deuteronomy 6:4-9.
He confessed God boldly - Deut. 6:4-6
He taught his faith regularly - Deut. 6:7
He lived his faith openly - Deut. 6:8-9
He passed on that which he lived. And this will be the case, for either good or evil.
In Genesis we find that Abraham lied twice about Sarah's status as his wife in order to save his skin [Genesis 12:11-19, 20:2] Does it surprise anyone that Isaac, Abraham's son, lied about Rebekah also [Genesis 26:7]?
III. I will edify and encourage you to become your God-given best – 4:13
Love desires to bring out the best in others. While we see this story as the elevation of Ruth, God used Boaz to do it. Notice the progression of change in Ruth's status.
She came to Bethlehem as "a foreigner" - 2:10
She labored as the "lowest servant" - 2:13
She was treated as household "maidservant" – 3:9
She became Boaz' "wife" - 4:13
The story of the relationship between Barnabas and Paul is interesting here. After his conversion, virtually everyone questioned Paul's sincerity - everyone except Barnabas. The Son of Encouragement [Acts 4:36] reached out and built up. He saw in the young convert what others must have missed. Have you ever thought about the heritage Barnabas left to the church? It was Paul the Apostle. Thank God for the encouragers.
IV. I will restore you when you stumble or sin – 4:14-17
Here we see the transformation of Naomi. In order to appreciate the present disposition of Naomi [4:14-17], "the pleasant one," we must remember the pain that led her to call herself Mara, "the bitter one" [1:20-21]. She was empty but became full. She was "bitter" but became "joyful." Although she stumbled, Ruth helped to restore Naomi's faith.
Know this: Both you and your loved ones will stumble, sin, and disappoint. The question is this: Have you made a commitment to restore them when it happens? This commitment makes four statements:
I will hold you accountable.
I will forgive you.
I will guard your name.
I will restore you.
Some people will reject your best efforts to help them. But for the heritage builder, involvement is not an option. On a side note to the text, verse 14 and 15 indicate that the newborn baby, not Boaz, was Naomi's redeemer. This is interesting because in generations to come, a child would be born from their heritage that would redeem us all – Jesus.
"Linda had had it. She was fed up with her husband's money-grubbing workaholism and extravagant lifestyle. She was tired of his get-rich-quick schemes and expensive toys. So one day she packed her bags and headed for New York.
"It was true that Millard had a knack for making money. He'd been working at it since he was six. That's when his father gave him a pig to raise. By the time he was twelve, he had added rabbits, chickens, and cattle to his portfolio. It seemed everything he touched turned to money.
"In college, Millard and a friend paid their way through the University of Alabama by selling directories, birthday cakes, and desk blotters. They invested their profits in rental apartments for students. By graduation, they were making $50,000 a year.
"After finishing law school, Millard and his partner went into the mail-order business. But his big money came later – selling fund-raising cookbooks to the Future Homemakers of America and other groups.
"By the time Millard was 29, he had become a millionaire and made it his mission to increase his earnings tenfold. He had given Linda all the money she needed and more. The had a full-time maid, a new Lincoln Continental, a cabin at the lake, as well as cattle, horses, and lakes stocked with fish. But Linda wasn't happy. Her husband was married to his money, not to her. That's when she announced that she was going to New York to think about the future of their marriage.
"'I was in agony,' Millard said. 'Never before . . . had I suffered as I did during those days. Everything else – business, sales, profits, prestige, everything that had seemed so important – paled into total meaninglessness. I imagined God asking me what I had done with my life. I could hear myself squeaking, 'Lord, I sold . . . a lot of cookbooks.' In the presence of God that sounded so ridiculous I could only cringe.'
"Linda's exit was not a part of Millard's plan. It stopped him dead in his tracks. He deeply loved his wife, so he went to her seeking reconciliation.
"In a tearful meeting in New York City, Millard and Linda were reunited. Then they sold their business, gave the money to charities, and went on a church mission trip to Africa, touring schools, hospitals, and refugee programs.
"When they returned, they lived, worked, and studied the Bible on a communal farm in Americus, Georgia. And it was there that Millard and Linda Fuller, along with Clarence Jordan, first developed the concepts of a house building venture that eventually resulted in the formation of Habitat for Humanity, now the largest non-profit housing organization in the United States.
"It seemed that any business Millard Fuller touched would have succeeded. But God had other ideas, bigger ideas, than even Millard could imagine. And the more than 400,000 people worldwide who have been helped into a new home are extremely grateful he did." [Words that Inspire, 100-104]
Now that is a heritage builder with God.