Scripture: Ruth 2
Title: Boaz & Ruth
- Safe Access
- Warm Understanding
- Community Connection
Earlier in the service I stood on a table and tried to give someone a hand up so they could stand on the table with me – It didn’t work
– But when I stood on the ground and gave them a hand up from alongside, it worked much better
– I want you to keep that picture, of a hand up from alongside, in your mind as you listen to today’s message
This morning we continue our sermon series on intergenerational relationships in the Bible
– An intergenerational relationship is a relationship between two people from different generations, someone older and someone younger
– We find a number of intergenerational relationships in the Bible
– For example: Moses and Joshua, the aging priest Eli and the young prophet Samuel, King Saul and King David
– As well as the apostle Paul and his protégé Timothy
Our focus this morning though is on the relationship between Ruth and Boaz
– We don’t know the age difference between Boaz & Ruth, only that Boaz was somewhat older than Ruth, maybe between 10 & 25 years older
– Setting aside the romantic attachment that developed between them, Boaz demonstrates for us a number of things that those who are older can do to come alongside those who are younger and give them a hand up
Boaz gives Ruth access, understanding and connection
– We also can do these things for those who are younger than us
Setting the scene:
We touched on Ruth’s story 3 Sundays ago when we looked at the inter-generational friendship between Naomi and Ruth
– But in case you missed that I’ll give you a quick overview to set the scene
The story takes place during the time of the Judges in ancient Israel – which is after Joshua and before Saul & David
– In many ways it was the worst of times – when men behaved badly
– But it brought out the best in certain people
– There was a famine in the land and Naomi’s husband and two sons were forced to leave Bethlehem to try and find food in Moab, the land of their enemies – they were essentially refugees – displaced people
While they were in Moab, Naomi’s husband died and her two sons married Moabite girls: Orpah and Ruth
– Ten years passed in Moab before Naomi’s two sons died also
– Despite 10 years of marriage Orpah & Ruth had no children
When Naomi hears that God has provided food for his people in Israel, she decides to return to Bethlehem
– Long story short – Orpah stays in Moab, while Ruth goes with Naomi saying…
“…Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God…”
Ruth wholeheartedly commits herself to Naomi, to Naomi’s people and to Naomi’s God. This was a huge leap of faith and a great act of hesed or loyalty on Ruth’s part
Ruth & Naomi return to Bethlehem just in time for the barley harvest
The Law of Moses was written with the poor and vulnerable in mind, using a hand up, not a hand out, approach
One of the safety nets provided by the Law was a practice called gleaning
– With gleaning, the poor were allowed to follow behind the harvesters picking up the grain left behind
– The harvesters were to ensure there was adequate left overs for the gleaners to pick up by not harvesting the edges of their fields and not going over the ground twice
– Gleaning was not a ‘hand out’ because the gleaners had to work for their grain
– Having said that, gleaning by itself wasn’t enough to lift someone out of poverty – but it did at least save people from starvation
So they wouldn’t starve, Ruth respectfully asks to go gleaning in the fields and, as providence would have it, she finds herself in Boaz’ field
– I say, ‘as providence would have it’ because Boaz does three things to help Ruth:
o He grants her safe access to his field for gleaning
o He shows Ruth warm understanding
o And he connects her with others in the community
– Safe access, warm understanding and community connection
These three things that Boaz does for Ruth are things that we can do for those who are younger than us
Firstly, Boaz grants Ruth safe & generous access to his field
When Boaz turns up to see how his harvesters are getting on he notices this young women working in his field, so he asks his foreman who this mystery gleaner is, and the foreman replies…
“She is the Moabitess who came back from Moab with Naomi. She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters’. She went into the field and has worked steadily from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.”
There’s a few points to note here:
Firstly, the foreman doesn’t seem to know Ruth’s name – he identifies her as the ‘Moabitess from Moab’
– In other words, she’s not one of us, she’s an outsider
– Despite the fact that Ruth was an outsider the foreman still granted her access to glean in Boaz’ field
– Apparently word had got around of Ruth’s hesed (or loyalty) to Naomi
Secondly, Ruth asks permission to glean in the field, even though the Law of Moses already says she can
– This tells us that Ruth doesn’t come with any sense of entitlement
– She approaches the foreman with respect and humility
Thirdly, the foreman says how Ruth has ‘worked steadily’
– This indicates Ruth’s virtue
– She’s not lazy, she’s not looking for a hand out, she’s not there to pick up a man – she’s there to provide for herself & Naomi and for this the foreman respects her
Boaz comes alongside Ruth and says to her…
“My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field… Stay here with my servant girls. Watch the field where the men are harvesting and follow along after the girls. I have told the men not to touch you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.”
Although immigrants like Ruth (who embraced the God of Israel and his covenant) were provided for and protected under the Law, this didn’t guarantee their safety
– The time of the Judges was a bit of a dodgey time in Israel’s history when people tended to do what was best in their own eyes
– Consequently finding people who kept the Law was rare
– Boaz was one of those who did keep God’s Law but he was well aware that many of his countrymen didn’t
– Had Ruth gone to glean in another field she could have been driven away or worse, assaulted
– That’s why Boaz encourages Ruth to stay in his field where she won’t be molested
Boaz is in a position of power – he is careful not to abuse his power, but rather to use it to help Ruth, to empower her by granting safe access to his field
– Granting safe access to those young people who embrace Christ (as Ruth had embraced the God of Israel) is something we can do also
At a recent deacons meeting Daryl gave a devotion from the Fuller Institute’s book “Growing Young”
– In this book we find the following true story…
Remember your first set of keys?
– Stephen — who goes by “Stretch” — received his first set of keys when he was 16.
– His town handed him a driver’s license, and his parents handed him the key to the family car.
– Heart pounding with excitement, he climbed behind the wheel and pulled out of his driveway for the first time on his own.
– Stretch couldn’t believe the newfound freedom and responsibility he had been given.
– He took a step away from childhood and a step closer to adulthood.
As Stretch pulled onto the street and began to accelerate, he faced an important and practical question. Where should I go?
– Within a moment he knew the answer. Over the past several years, his church had become like a second home to him. There he felt known, accepted and valued. So naturally, he headed in that direction.
As he drove into the parking lot, the church’s childcare was wrapping up for the day.
– One of the coordinators who knew Stretch noticed him driving the car.
– Given a recent shortage of childcare workers and seeing that he now had transportation, she asked if he was interested in helping after school.
She was only halfway through the question before Stretch knew his answer. He would get to hang out at the church, spend time with kids, and on top of it all … he would get paid. This day couldn’t get any better!
– Until a few minutes later, when she returned from the church office and handed him a key to the church. “If you’re going to help us, there will be times when we’ll need you to lock up,” she explained.
Stretch was staring so intently at the key that he barely heard her words.
– The pastor had this key.
– His Sunday school teacher had this key.
– Other adults who were mature — who had power — had this key.
– But him? It was like he had been waiting on the sidelines during the big game and was now being called to step onto the playing field.
Life was truly as good as it could be. Until it got even better.
A week later, while Stretch was working in the childcare center, the youth pastor dropped by. “You know, Stretch,” he said, “if you have your license and are already at the church, would you be willing to stock the soda machine for me? The job comes with all the Mountain Dew you can drink.”
– Key to the car. Check.
– Key to the church. Check.
– Key to the soda machine. Check.
– Stretch knew he had arrived.
Later that night, Stretch received the final “key” that forever changed the course of his life. Standing alone in the empty church, he heard God speak to him — not audibly but distinctly.
– “You like to be here, don’t you?” God asked.
– “Yes, I do,” Stretch answered.
– “Well, get comfortable, because you’re going to be here a lot.”
From that day on, Stretch knew that both his future and his vocation were closely tied to church ministry.
– Leaders he deeply respected had entrusted him with access and authority by giving him keys, both literally and figuratively.
In the several decades that followed, others continued to entrust him with the keys of leadership & he’s now been a youth pastor for over 20 years 
That’s a good news story
– The more mature adults in the church put faith in Stretch, they trusted him and gave him access
– And Stretch, for his part, was respectful of the trust (the keys) he had been given – he didn’t take it for granted, nor did he have any sense of entitlement – he was simply grateful for the faith others showed in him
Keys provide access
– Granting access is really about trusting people and empowering them
We let our young people (who embrace Christ) have access in a number ways
– Sometimes literal access to the church buildings by giving keys
– But also access to opportunities for service & leadership, through the music team or through Sunday school, Club Intermed, youth group and night church
– The next generation may do things differently to the previous generation but that’s okay – so long as each generation holds to Christ
It seems to me that Daryl is very good at trusting the young people in his care by giving them access to the church and opportunities for service
– But it’s not just Daryl – our deacons and our congregation as a whole want to continue seeing the next generation participating in church life
– By the same token we are fortunate to have young people who (like Ruth and Stretch) are respectful and responsible with the keys we give them
Not only does Boaz grant Ruth safe access to his fields, he also shows Ruth warm understanding
– When Ruth asks Boaz why he is showing her such favour, Boaz replies…
“I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband – how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before… May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.”
To which Ruth replies…
– “…You have given me comfort and spoken kindly to your servant…”
Ruth’s reply indicates there is real warmth in what Boaz says here
– He is showing her, with his words, that he understands and appreciates what she has been through and what she has given up for Naomi’s sake
– Consequently Ruth feels comforted by his words
What’s more, by saying, I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law, Boaz is making it clear to Ruth that the rumour mill is positive
– She doesn’t have to worry about how others are perceiving her
– He’s not the only one who knows about her hesed (her loyalty) to Naomi
Sometimes when we are young we can feel a bit unsure of ourselves
– We might not have worked out who we are or where we fit just yet
– One of the things older people can give younger people is encouragement – kind words communicated warmly, not cold words of criticism
– You don’t have to be over the top with complements or embarrass people by doing it publicly – just a few gentle words on the quiet at the right time to show you are on their side
Mother Teresa once said:
– Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty
The thing about warmth & understanding is that it stops people from feeling alone and unwanted – it keeps their demons at bay
– When you feel that someone really gets you, really understands you, then you feel more at peace, more at home with yourself and with others
The 24-7 youth work that Jo & Thomas do at Tawa College is about warmth and understanding
– It’s about coming alongside and being present to listen so young people don’t feel alone
A few weeks ago I attended the Baptist Lead conference in Lower Hutt
– One of the speakers there, Tricia Hendry, told a story of a boy who was sent to live with his gran
– The boy began wagging school, not just once or twice, but regularly
When his gran found out he’d been wagging she didn’t react straight away
– She took a deep breath and considered how to approach the situation
– Her grandson was respectful to her at home and so it was a bit puzzling why he would do this
In the end the gran decided to take him out to KFC for dinner – he loved KFC
– On the way the boy asked, ‘Why are you taking me to KFC gran?’
– ‘Because you’ve had a rough time lately and I wanted to do something nice for you.’
– They sat in the restaurant and ate their KFC – the grandmother didn’t say anything about the boy wagging school
After they’d eaten the gran drove the boy home, but she took the long way.
– They were sitting side by side in the car, not face to face, and so the posture was not top down or confrontational, it was alongside
– The boy asked, ‘Why are we taking the long way home?
– And his gran replied, ‘I want to ask you a question. When you are not at school are you keeping yourself safe?’
– The gran’s question let the boy know two things:
o That his gran was aware he was wagging, so he didn’t need to hide or keep that secret anymore (the truth sets us free)
o And secondly, that she cares – there’s no judgement, no threat of punishment, just warmth and a genuine desire to understand
The boy says, ‘Yes gran. I am looking after myself. I go to my mother’s work and sit outside her window so I can be there to help her if she needs me.’
– You see the reason that boy was sent to live with his gran was that his father was being violent to his mother
– The boy just wanted to protect his mum
What a wise gran – full of truth and grace
Sometimes older people think they have nothing to offer.
– That’s not true
– If you are older then you have experience and you can show warmth and understanding to those who are younger
– (You can be a surrogate grand-parent)
Now I’m conscious there are a lot of teachers here, some of whom may have to deal with students who wag school
– I’m not suggesting you take them all out to KFC – a teacher’s role is quite different to the role of a grandparent
– Besides, not all kids wag for good reasons like the boy in that story
– The point is, whether you are a teacher or a parent or a grandparent or whoever, warm understanding is usually a more helpful place to start than cold criticism
Tawa College is great with their restorative practice – it’s a warm understanding approach
Okay – so far we’ve heard how Boaz gives Ruth a hand up (not a hand out) by:
– Granting her safe access to his property
– And by communicating with warmth and understanding
– The other thing Boaz does for Ruth (in chapter 2) is he creates connections for her in the community
– He does this by inviting her to eat lunch with him and his workers
At mealtime Boaz said to Ruth, “Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar.” When she sat down with the harvesters he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and had some left over.”
By sharing a meal together the workers got to know Ruth a bit so that she wasn’t just the Moabitess from Moab – she wasn’t a stranger anymore
– And by giving Ruth more than she could eat Boaz is underlining Ruth’s status as a person to be valued and accepted by others
– Boaz is modelling for his workers how he expects them to treat Ruth, with generosity and respect
Sometimes you find yourself in a conversation with someone who says something like: ‘Young people these days are terrible’
– If you do then don’t abide that – put them straight
– Model for them a positive way to talk about young people
– Tell them about the young people you know who are good
– Most young people are good these days – certainly better than I was
A few things we do to help foster relational connections in the life of the church include: tea & coffee after the morning service, ‘Count Me In’ lunches, small group Bible studies and all-age (intergenerational) services from time to time
– Those things in themselves don’t guarantee community connections – they are a hand up (from alongside), not a hand out
– So some effort to talk to someone new and get to know others is still needed on our part
There’s heaps more we could say about creating community connections but that’s enough for today
Boaz gives Ruth a hand up by granting her access to his field, warm understanding and community connection
– These are things we can do also
Boaz points us to Jesus
– Jesus came down from heaven and became human to be alongside us and give us a hand up
For those who may identify with Boaz…
– Is there someone you can come alongside to offer a hand up?
And for those who identify more with Ruth…
– What can you do to help yourself?
Let us pray…