Sermon series: Building Lasting Relationships - Ruth
Every human has both strengths and weaknesss. Unfortunately, we bring the whole package into any relationship. As a result we often treat each other like two porcupines in Northern Canada. "They huddled together to get warm, but their quills pricked each other, so they moved apart. Before long they were shivering, so they sidled close again. Soon both were jabbed again. Same story, same ending. They needed each other, but they kept needling each other." [Swindoll, "The Tale of the Tardy Ox," 476]
If that story sounds too familiar, you may need to consider a more virtuous life. As we discovered in our last study of Ruth and Boaz, virtuous living provides the foundation for lasting and meaningful relationships. In part one we learned a biblical principle about the way our obedience to God can affect our relationships with others. Just as a reminder, we will call that truth, "Virtual Reality #1": Your obedience to God's plan opens His provision for you.
This week we will examine three additional virtues that can help make the home a special place.
I. Be what you desire, attract what you desire
While exceptions exist, such as Hosea and Gomer, a quick glance at married couples in the Bible confirms this reality. Compare Ahab and Jezebel to Joseph and Mary. One couple was corrupt and one was godly. But did you notice that each individual married someone of similar moral persuasion? We are not suggesting that people don't marry up or down morally. We are suggesting that a person of morally questionable character will tend to attract those of morally questionable character. Likewise, those who possess authentic devotion to God will tend to attract the same.
With that in mind, notice three characteristics of Ruth that were also true of Boaz.
A. She was considerate of others – 2:2, 10, 13
It is interesting that Ruth asked Naomi for permission to find them food. Local customs not withstanding, she didn't have to ask, but she did. Three times in this chapter Ruth demonstrates exceptional respect for Naomi. And the way she treated others spoke volumes about her character. Here we see that she was considerate and courteous.
B. She demonstrated honest goodness
In this passage we see at least five marks of goodness.
Industrious: "Please let me go" [2:2]
Strong work ethic: "She continued all day" [2:7]
Humility: "She bowed with her face to the ground" [2:10]
Gratitude: "You have been so kind to me" [2:13]
Compassion: "She kept some back" [2:14]
According to verse 2:17 she gathered 26 quarts of barley. Interestingly, all these things were true of Boaz also.
C. She expressed sincere devotion to God - 1:16 [2:4, 12]
The God that she had only recently trusted had placed a man of similar faith in her path. Another Ruth, Ruth Bell, wrote a poem that God would give her a godly husband.
Dear God, I pray all unafraid As girls are wont to be, I do not want a handsome man But make him, Lord, like Thee.
I do not need one big and strong nor yet so very tall, Nor need he be some genius or wealthy, Lord at all;
But let his head be high, dear God and let his eye be clear, His shoulders straight, whate'er his fate whate'er his earthly sphere.
And let his face have character, a ruggedness of soul. And let his whole life show, dear God, a singleness of goal.
And when he comes as he will come With quiet eyes aglow I'll know, dear Lord, That he's the man I prayed for long ago.
And God gave her Billy Graham. Be what you desire and you tend to attract what you desire
II. Mutual respect is the seedbed from which love blossoms
Those who believe that Bible demeans women haven't looked closely at the budding relationship between Boaz and Ruth. The one word that summarizes his treatment of Ruth is "respect." How did Boaz show it? And, how do we demonstrate respect?
A. Noticing one's strengths rather than highlighting weaknesses — 2:10
Notice the word "foreigner." Ruth was self-conscious of her status as a "foreigner," but Boaz was indifferent to it.
B. Compliment character rather than criticizing condition — 2:11-12
She was poor and he was rich. But Boaz saw past her condition. He saw her character. She was more than the clothes that she wore.
C. Appreciate what they do for you — 2:13
Gratitude is a mark of character. Our culture operates as though everyone owes us. They exist for our pleasure. Not Ruth.
D. Show courtesy — 2:14
See the phrase, "sit at the table"? He didn't have to treat her so nicely, but it was out of respect for Ruth's kindness and courtesy to Naomi.
E. Do kind things – 2:15-16
Sometimes the little things are the big things. The action here that demonstrates respect is thoughtfulness.
Now you can see that mutual respect is the seedbed from which genuine love blossoms.
James Michener made a wise observation about respect. "I was born to a woman I never knew and raised by another who took in orphans. I do not know my background, my lineage, my biological or cultural heritage. But when I meet someone new, I treat them with respect. For after all, they could be my people." - [Heavenward CD]
III. Genuine love patiently brings out the best in others – 2:17-23
Compare Naomi in v. 1:22 and v. 2:20. The virtuous life of Ruth began a transformation of her pain. It didn't happen overnight. But Ruth's patience paid off.
A well-to-do businessman gave a fine car to his brother. One day when the brother went to the place he'd parked the car, he saw a ragged boy looking the car over with great interest. Instead of saying, "Get away from that car, kid," he smiled at the youngster. The boy was the first to speak. "Is that car yours, Mister?"
"Yes, it is," was the reply.
"What did it cost?" was the next question.
"Nothing," said the man.
The boy looked at him curiously and said, "You don't look like the kind of guy who would steal a car."
The owner laughed and said, "No, it was a present from my brother."
The boy seemed incredulous. "Do you mean to say he gave it to you as a present, and it didn't cost you anything?"
Then the boy said the most surprising thing of all: "I sure do wish I could be such a brother as yours." One might have expected him to say, "How I wish I could have such a brother as yours."
The man asked him what he meant, and he explained: "I'll tell you. My youngest brother had polio and he can't walk to see all the shops in town and enjoy the toys, at least by seeing them in the windows. How I wish I had a car like this to take him around. Our father died, and we won't get any presents this Christmas. But at least I can walk along the streets and enjoy the shop windows. My brother can't even do this. That's why I'd like to be a brother like your brother." [Heavenward CD]