Act 3: Hoping in God
Big Idea: Hope in God is our greatest help in hardship
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The first two chapters of the Old Testament book of Ruth have taken us on a journey with Naomi and Ruth through catastrophic pain and disappointment. They've experienced famine, grief, and loss; their husbands have died and their fortunes have tanked. Out of desperation, they’ve returned to Bethlehem defeated and destitute.
When they first arrive, Naomi is bitter toward God, acknowledging His hand in their situation but doubting that He is working for their good. Ruth, on the other hand, has taken a different approach. She has chosen to accept Naomi’s God as her own and seize the opportunity to trust His character and capability in their crisis. As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that, though hidden, God’s hand is on their situation all along, leading, providing, and redeeming.
In the second chapter, God begins to reveal His plan by showing kindness through Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s deceased husband, Elimelech. Naomi knows the implications of having a close male relative in that culture: Boaz could redeem Elimilech’s family, land and wealth. She begins to realize that God could rescue them after all and hope is reborn in her heart; not a naïve hope that things might get better but a hope fixed in and on God. Hope changes everything for her, as she realizes God is present and working powerfully for His glory and their good.
The lesson for us is clear: Hope – concrete confidence in God’s character and capability – is our greatest help in hardship. Everything else we may put our trust in will fail us; only God will never forsake or abandon us.
Here are three byproducts of hoping in God found in Ruth 3:
1. Hoping in God grants me a fresh vision for the future. (v.1-5)
Naomi’s hope in God has opened her eyes to her duty as Ruth’s mother-in-law to find a new husband for Ruth. She also recognizes that they have an unmarried male relative who can redeem their situation and she begins to imagine what would happen if Boaz were to marry Ruth. Her new-found hope grants her fresh vision for a new and redeemed future.
Again, the lesson for us is clear: Despair destroys our ability to conceive of God’s capability to redeem what’s broken. Hope in who God is and what He’s capable of grants us new eyes. As we choose to believe that God is good, that He’s in control and is for us, our hope allows us to see what could be and should be.
2. Hoping in God releases me to take risks with courage. (v.6-9)
A few weeks have passed since the end of chapter 2. The harvest is over and the threshing of the barley has begun: the process of separating the hard, inedible chaff from the grain. It’s hard work and at the end of the day, the owners of the grain sleep on the threshing floor near their grain to protect it.
Naomi lays out a risky plan for Ruth that involves seeking out Boaz after he has gone to bed and proposing marriage to him. By approaching Boaz in his sleep, uncovering his feet, and lying down by them, Ruth will be demonstrating her dependence on him in view of her bold proposal. But she will also be jeopardizing her reputation, as she could easily be perceived as a prostitute. Further, she risks being rejected when he wakes up and she proposes marriage to him.
Still, Ruth agrees to do all that Naomi tells her to do. Her hope in God releases her to risk her reputation, her livelihood, and her future with great courage. She has a fresh vision for the future and the courage to risk running after it.
The question for us is: Do we have hope in God that gives us the courage to risk running after what He has called us to?
3. Hoping in God helps me wait on His timing. (v. 10-15)
Boaz knows what she is asking him to do when she says, “Spread your wings over your servant…” His response reveals that his own hope in God will help him wait on God’s timing.
Boaz could have taken advantage of Ruth and, in a culture rampant with idolatry and promiscuity, no one would have condemned his actions. But he doesn’t even touch her. He is humbled and honored by her proposal and is willing to wait according to God's plan.
Our challenge is the same as it was for Boaz: God has a time and a context for any and all sexual expression. We are to fix our hope on God for the grace and strength to wait on his timing. In the same way, He gives us strength to trust Him with the timing for any plan in accordance with His will.
Though Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz all have hope in God, their hope doesn’t fix everything immediately. There are still issues to be worked through: there is a man who is a nearer relative than Boaz who has rights as a redeemer. But Boaz protects Ruth’s reputation, commits to working it out, and supplies her with food before sending her back to Naomi. Through the ups and downs of this story, their hope in God is what carries them through.
When we decide to trust that God is everything He says and is capable of all He claims, we too can have hope. Every crisis creates an opportunity to trust God's character and capability.Hoping in God is your greatest help in hardship.
Questions for further reflection:
Is my hope in God?
Where do I need fresh vision for the future?
Where do I need to take risk with courage?
Where do I need to wait on God's timing?
(Adapted by Diane Rivers from sermon entitled, "Act 3: Hoping in God".)