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Spirit and Ruth Please Wait to Be Seated

This article is based on a talk given on Sunday, 18th July, 2021.

The other day, I went to a restaurant
The waitress said to me, “I’m really sorry but we are really short-staffed today. Would you mind waiting for a bit?” so I said that would be fine.
She said “great, can you take these drinks to table 15?”.

What are you waiting for? What are you doing while you are waiting for it?

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At the start of the Book of Acts, we see Jesus telling his disciples to wait and he gives them very specific instructions:
And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.
Acts 1:4 (KJV‬‬)

It’s not always easy to wait, and it’s also not always easy to know what we are supposed to be doing while we wait. Being stable often involves waiting, but is it always going to look the same?

In Ruth chapter 3, we meet three characters, all of whom are waiting, but each of them has a different role to play, and therefore they wait in very different ways.

Then said [Naomi to Ruth], Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man [Boaz] will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day.
Ruth 3:18 (KJV‬‬)

First, we have Ruth, the daughter-in-law, who has just offered herself on a plate to Boaz, the rich old relative of Naomi’s. Boaz, however, points out that there are a few things that need to be sorted out first. There is another man who has a legal right to marry Ruth, and he must first get his permission.

This is often the case when we are waiting for something. There are other things that need to take place that are often completely out of our hands. So, when Ruth gets home and tells Naomi all that has just happened, Naomi tells her to “sit still”.

This brings us to Naomi, who is also waiting. What does she do? Well, of course, we have just seen what she does. She is the encourager.

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This is in spite of the fact that what is about to happen next is just as big a deal for Naomi as it is for Ruth, but Naomi has developed a maturity that Ruth hasn’t quite developed yet. If we are struggling to wait for something, maybe there is someone else we can encourage with their waiting.

Then there is Boaz. Naomi tells Ruth that Boaz will not be at rest. The word rest here means quiet or undisturbed, so we’re told that Boaz will not be quiet and will not sit still, so quite the opposite to what Ruth is being told to do by Naomi.

But then we’re told what Boaz does next at the beginning of the next chapter, and it might come as a surprise:
Then went Boaz up to the gate, and sat him down there: and, behold, the kinsman of whom Boaz spake came by; unto whom he said, Ho, such a one! turn aside, sit down here. And he turned aside, and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, Sit ye down here. And they sat down.
Ruth 4:1-2 (KJV‬‬)

Boaz sits down.

He then instructs the man with the legal right to marry Ruth to sit down and then he takes the elders of the city and instructs them to sit down.

It might not seem like a big deal, but this was a pattern that Jesus himself would follow. When Jesus ascended into heaven after he told the disciples to wait, the assumption of the disciples might have been that Jesus had a lot of work to do and wasn’t going to rest until he’d finished.

But we find out in Hebrews 10 that, just like with Boaz, that wasn’t quite what happened next:
But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;

Hebrews 10:12 (KJV‬‬)

He sat down. All the hard work of suffering on the cross and dying for us had already been done. The only thing that was left for Jesus to do was sit in his rightful position.

And the best news is that, as Ephesians 2 tells us, when we are born again, we sit down with him:
And [he] hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
Ephesians 2:6 (KJV‬‬)

So what do we do while we wait? If you’re born again, you’re already doing it. In the spiritual realm, we are sitting down, together, with Jesus, in heavenly places.

So what else must we do? Well, from our place of sitting down, we just encourage others to sit down. Like Boaz and Naomi, the best thing we can do to encourage others, is to sit down too. That, of course, is what we are already doing. We just need to start acting like it!

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What might that look like? It might look like taking off our face masks, safe in the knowledge that Jesus has already given us authority over all disease and that we don’t need some flimsy piece of cloth to protect us or anyone else.

It might look like gathering together to sing praises to God, even if the science says that singing indoors is high risk.

And then we wait as God does everything else and draws others who are desperate to hear the message that they don’t need to live in fear any more. And from our seated position, we encourage them to sit down too.

Take your seat, be stable and stay blessed.

Spirit and Ruth Laid to Rest

This article is based on a talk given on Sunday, 11th July, 2021.

A little girl asks her grandmother “Grandma, what is it called when people sleep on top of each other?”. Thinking the little girl is old enough, she begins to explain to her about the birds and the bees.

Before she could finish, the little girl runs off to her mummy, but comes back quickly saying:
"Grandma, mummy is really mad and wants to see you right now. She said it’s called bunk beds."

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Has anyone ever misunderstood you, but it’s actually ended up working out better?

On New Year’s Eve in 2013, I prayed God would help me get to know a girl called Carrie better over the next year. 11 months later, we were married, and almost seven years on we have three beautiful children.

In the third chapter of the Book of Ruth, we see Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, rushing ahead because she doesn’t yet fully understand what God has planned for her and Ruth. Fortunately, it all works out for the best in the end, better than she could ever imagine.

I like to think that the Prophet Samuel was giggling away to himself as he wrote this chapter. It is full of innuendo, but there are wonderful secrets that God reveals to us about who he is and what he is really like through Samuel’s cheeky one-liners.

In the first two chapters, Ruth loses her husband and moves to a foreign land with Naomi. Ruth has been allowed to gather leftovers for herself and Naomi from a field owned by a rich man called Boaz. She’s worked hard, but Boaz has made sure that there is plenty left over and that no harm has come to Ruth. It’s coming to the end of the harvest season, and Ruth has presumably gathered enough to keep her and Naomi going until the next harvest season. So it’s almost time to put her feet up.

So in that context, what Naomi says next might seem a little strange:
Then Naomi her mother in law said unto her, My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee?
Ruth‬ ‭3:1‬ (‭KJV‬‬)

So what does Naomi mean by rest? We first see this same word back in Genesis 6 in the story of Noah after he sends out a dove to look for dry land.
but the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭8:9‬ (‭KJV‬‬)

The ark was a place of rest for Noah, his family, all the animals and this dove. In fact, it was the only safe place on the Earth at the time. But Noah knew it was not God’s plan for them to stay in the ark forever.

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The food that Ruth had gathered was going to eventually run out. Beyond that, she had no children to look after her as she grew old, or to inherit the land that belonged to her dead husband. But I don’t think even that fully encapsulates everything God means by rest.

The Bible tells us that God has much bigger plans for our future and for the generations that will come after us, but it also talks of his plans to give us peace and hope.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
‭‭‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29:11‬ (N‭KJV‬‬)

Naomi knows this, but she’s getting impatient. So she hatches a plan. It’s a little unconventional, but she has seen the way Boaz has treated Ruth. She also knows that he is a close relative, which means he has a legal right under Jewish law to marry Ruth and buy the land which once belonged to her husband.

“Now Boaz, whose young women you were with, is he not our relative? In fact, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Therefore wash yourself and anoint yourself, put on your best garment and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. Then it shall be, when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies; and you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lie down; and he will tell you what you should do.” And she said to her, “All that you say to me I will do.” So she went down to the threshing floor and did according to all that her mother-in-law instructed her. And after Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was cheerful, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came softly, uncovered his feet, and lay down.
‭‭‭‭Ruth‬ ‭3:2-7(N‭KJV‬‬)

As I’ve said, I believe this chapter is full of innuendo. Take the phrase “do not make yourself known to the man”. This word “know” means more than just knowledge of a person. In fact we can head back to the first chapters of Genesis again, and we see this same idea of knowing.
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have acquired a man from the Lord.”
‭‭‭‭Genesis‬ ‭4:1‬ (N‭KJV‬‬)

When I prayed on that New Year’s Eve in 2013 that God would help me to get to know Carrie better, there were probably a few giggles in heaven before the angels got to work.

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I’ll leave you to research all the other innuendos in this passage, but I firmly believe Ruth, the Moabite, had every intention of really getting to know Boaz that night while he was drunk.

And if you don’t believe me, let’s head again to Genesis.
And Lot went up… and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters. And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth: come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father… And the firstborn bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day.
‭‭‭‭Genesis‬ ‭19:30-37 (‭KJV‬‬)

These are Ruth’s direct ancestors. Ruth, like Lot’s daughters, was taking a huge risk. That is why they waited until they had had a lot to drink. This was not some beautiful, innocent thing that Ruth was doing. This was devious and manipulative.

So, what happened next may have shocked Ruth just as much as her lying at his feet shocked Boaz.

Now it happened at midnight that the man was startled, and turned himself; and there, a woman was lying at his feet. And he said, “Who are you?” So she answered, “I am Ruth, your maidservant. Take your maidservant under your wing, for you are a close relative.” Then he said, “Blessed are you of the Lord, my daughter! For you have shown more kindness at the end than at the beginning, in that you did not go after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you request, for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman.”
‭‭‭‭Ruth‬ ‭3:8-11 (‭NKJV‬‬)

What we see is a beautiful picture of how God sees us. He sees us as blessed and he sees pure, undefiled hearts, regardless of our background or how we might see ourselves. And God, like Boaz, responds in promising to do for us all that we request.

While Ruth may have seen herself as no better than her ancestors, that is not how Boaz saw her, even though, let’s face it, her plan was almost identical to that of her ancestors. But Boaz had spiritual insight. He was awake physically, unlike Lot, and he was also awake spiritually.

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True rest is knowing that God is pleased with you. When we have this revelation of God’s love for us, a spiritual insight into how God sees us and how he sees others, it stops us trying to do everything in our own strength. Instead we can do things from a place of rest, knowing that God knows the bigger picture.

We see this type of spiritual insight and how it plays out more clearly in Acts 7.

But [Stephen], being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” … And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
‭‭‭‭Acts 7:55-60 (‭NKJV‬‬)

Stephen saw the men who were stoning him not how any normal person would see them, as vicious thugs, but how God saw them, as sinners in need of forgiveness.

God loves us more than we can possibly imagine. The more we get to know God, the more we can be at rest, because we can stop scheming our way to success, safe in the knowledge that God has a much better plan for us, if we just wait for him to show us.

Be stable and stay blessed.

Spirit and Ruth Overflow

This article is based on a talk given on Trinity Sunday 2021.

A couple walk into a cheap looking restaurant. As they were about to sit down they noticed there were crumbs on the seat. After cleaning up the seat and wiping down the table they sat down. A waitress comes over asking them what they want. “I’ll just take a coffee” says the man. “Me too” says the lady, “and make sure the cup is clean.” The waitress returns with their drinks. “Okay” she said, placing their cups down, “now, which one of you wanted the clean cup?”

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It’s not always possible to consider every possible outcome, just like this man didn’t realise he needed to ask for a clean cup.

In the first verse of the second chapter of Ruth, we get a sneaky peek into the future. It’s a spiritual perspective, giving us insight into what God is thinking.

There was a relative of Naomi’s husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech. His name was Boaz.
Ruth 2:1 (NKJV)

Even though Ruth doesn’t know about Boaz yet, we already get this sense of excitement because of her perspective on life. She doesn’t need to know what is coming, she just knows that Naomi’s God is good and she has shown herself to be single-minded in her pursuit to bring happiness to Naomi.

In the next part of the story, we find out that she has learnt from Naomi that one of the good things that God has done for his people is to make a way for those without to gather food. This is God’s version of the benefits system, and it’s even open to complete strangers: when reapers gather up the grain from the field during harvest time, they are told to leave behind anything that falls on the floor for others to gather up.

So Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field, and glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I may find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” Then she left, and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers. And she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.
Ruth 2:2-3 (NKJV)

As we already know from the first verse, Boaz was a man of great wealth.

Based on how much wealthier Bill Gates got in the past year, he makes approximately $1,300 per second. It is often said it would not be worth his time to stop and pick up a $100 bill that he dropped on the ground. Of course, this is pre-divorce settlement.

Let’s imagine that you had heard that Bill Gates was actually notorious for dropping money on the floor regularly, in fact it was around one $100 bill per hour. You start to follow him around to pick them up. Now $100 an hour is pretty good going. But imagine if Bill then spots you and talks to you about what you are doing.

Would he be angry? I doubt it. It’s not worth his time. Would he be impressed at your work ethic? Possibly. Would others notice that he stopped to talk to you? Probably.

It’s a silly example, but even in the world's way of thinking, get in the right company and things could suddenly start getting a lot better very quickly.

Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you!”
And they answered him, “The Lord bless you!”
Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?”


Ruth 2:4-5 (NKJV)

Boaz’s workers clearly saw how blessed Boaz is, and soon what seemed to be just a little trickle becomes a great wave of blessing that overflows from God, through Boaz, to Ruth.

Just like God created his system to alleviate poverty in the time of Ruth, he has an even more amazing system for us now. As Spirit-filled believers, it is possible for us to know what the will of God is for our lives. And, when we are single-minded in following God’s will, and stop worrying about the cares of this world, we move into God’s overflow, just like Ruth did.

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
Matthew 6:33 (NKJV)

When Jesus says “all these things”, he was referring to everything and anything that we need or want. Being truly blessed is living life without any worries, and being so blessed that God's blessings overflow through us, in order that we can be a blessing to others. And it all starts from being stable in seeking and following God's will for your life.

Be stable and stay blessed.

Spirit and Ruth Filled

This article is based on a talk given on Pentecost Sunday 2021.

After downing half a glass of milk, a little girl declares “Look daddy, I am an optimist, the glass is half empty”. Her daddy replies: “Looking at the glass as half empty is a sign of pessimism, sweetie.” The little girl smiled and corrected her daddy: "No daddy, it's not if you don't like what's in it!"

What are you filled with? Being filled is often seen as a positive thing, but as this little girl correctly identifies, it’s not always the case. Sometimes empty is better.

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In the first chapter of the Book of Ruth, we are introduced to a widow called Naomi. When there was a famine going on in Bethlehem, her family moved to a place called Moab where they thought there would be more food. It turned out not to be such a great move after all. Her husband and two sons died, and now she was returning back to Bethlehem, in a worse state than when she left.

And it happened, when they had come to Bethlehem, that all the city was excited because of them; and the women said, “Is this Naomi?”
But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?”

Ruth 1:19-21 (NKJV)

We don’t exactly know what Naomi means when she says she went out full. We were told that there was a famine when she left, but perhaps they left more out of fear of the future than out of actual lack. Or perhaps she is just counting the number of family members she left with and how many she is coming back with. Either way, even she probably knows deep down that it wasn’t the Lord that did this to her.

As we read the rest of the book of Ruth, we also find that the one family member she does bring back with her, her daughter-in-law Ruth, ends up more than making up for the three family members she lost.

So just because Naomi says something, doesn’t make it true. The writer of the Book of Ruth, most likely the Prophet Samuel, seems to make a point of this in verse 22. After Naomi says that she wants to be called Mara, Samuel says “So Naomi returned” and from that point on he always refers to her as Naomi and not Mara. We have a choice about whether we accept what we hear as truth and whether we repeat it or ignore it.

Naomi did not come back empty because God willed it. She came back empty because God gave her, her husband and her two sons free will and they chose to move out of God’s perfect will for their lives. We all have free will and we can all make bad choices. We can also make good choices.

Naomi probably didn’t have a huge amount of choice in the matter and was just doing what her husband told her to do. God will honour women who obey their husbands, even when their husbands make stupid choices, and God can and will bless those who move back into His perfect will for their lives, or choose for the first time to follow God’s will, as Ruth has done.

Even if they don’t know it yet, Naomi and Ruth have positioned themselves perfectly to receive blessings from God, and God will never pass up an opportunity to bless those who are ready to receive.

He wants to fill us with his blessings. But if we want to be filled with blessings, then sometimes there is something else God needs to have us be first, and that is empty. At least, we need to be empty of anything that gets in the way of being completely full of God’s blessing.

God doesn’t want to share us with anyone. We can’t fully receive from God if we still want to do things our own way. That is being double minded and we are told in James 1:7 that if we are double minded, we shouldn’t expect to receive anything, at least not until we start being single minded about it.

There is a great moment in the first chapter of Acts after Jesus tells his disciples to wait for the promise of the Father. He then tells them what is coming:

You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
Acts 1:8 (NKJV)

After that Jesus is then taken up into heaven. Remember, the only thing Jesus told them to do is wait, but very soon they get tired of waiting and try to figure out what they need to do to get things moving.

Peter tells the other disciples that he has been reading the scriptures and has come to the conclusion that because Judas killed himself, they need to nominate someone new to be one of the original top 12 disciples. He quotes a few scriptures, prays a prayer, flips a coin, and Matthias is chosen.

But that wasn’t what Jesus told them to do. This was completely unnecessary. You have to have some sympathy for the poor guy who wasn’t picked. But God never told them to start picking new disciples in the first place, so it had nothing to do with him!

When we move out of God’s will, people can get hurt, and then people blame God, when God had nothing to do with it. All for nothing!

Thankfully, God is patient with us as we work out our double mindedness, and it doesn’t look like Peter’s double-mindedness caused too much trouble on this occasion. As Peter clearly demonstrates, it is difficult to remain stable without being filled with the Holy Spirit, so often God has to be patient with us until we have exhausted all other options and then come to him empty.

Part of being stable is reminding ourselves constantly of what God has told us to do and regularly casting out anything else that is making us double minded, then we can be ready to receive, and we might avoid some pain and heartache.

So as the little girl reminds us, it’s not always as simple as full is good, empty is bad. It all depends on what you are filled with.

Be stable and stay blessed.

Spirit and Ruth Don't Get Distracted

This article is based on a talk given on Sunday, 27th June, 2021.

A man was visiting a friend at his office and found him sitting at his desk looking depressed. He asked “What’s wrong with you?” “My wife just hired a new secretary for me.” The man responded “Is she blonde, or brunette?” “Neither,” the depressed friend replied. “He’s bald.”

What distracts you most? The word distract in Latin literally means “drawn apart”. In other words, it means being pulled in opposite directions. Is there something that is trying to pull you in the opposite direction to the direction you feel God is calling you?

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The book of Ruth describes three women: Naomi and her two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah. All three of them had husbands who made terrible decisions to leave their hometown and stay there. That decision ended up leaving all three of them poor and widowed.

As a result, Naomi decided to return to her hometown of Bethlehem. Orpah stayed in Moab, where she felt she had a better chance of finding a new husband. Ruth trusted Naomi’s God more, so even though her chances of finding another husband seemed remote, she stuck by Naomi.

She ended up in the field of a rich old man named Boaz, a Godly man who goes above and beyond to bless Ruth and provide for her.

Then Boaz said to Ruth, “You will listen, my daughter, will you not? Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women. Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Have I not commanded the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.”
Ruth 2:8-9 (NKJV)

Boaz instructs Ruth to keep focussed on the task and not to get distracted. He is saying to her: “Don’t get distracted by other fields. Stick by the other women in his field. Keep your eyes on the field. Don’t even worry or get distracted about drinking, that’s all sorted. And don’t worry or get distracted by the men.”

Like Ruth, we instinctively know that trusting God is always the right thing to do. But like Ruth, we can easily get distracted.

As Ruth recounts to Naomi what Boaz has said to her, it’s very telling which of the possible distractions he mentioned is going to be the hardest for Ruth.

Ruth the Moabitess said, “He also said to me, ‘You shall stay close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.’ ”
Ruth 2:21 (NKJV)

First of all, notice how the writer calls her Ruth the Moabitess. You probably wouldn’t get away with saying that these days, but I suspect the writer is drawing attention to a racial stereotype. It’s probably a little bit like saying Ruth the secretary. For whatever reason, men seem to be easily distracted by Moabite women!

Israelites were told not to marry Moabite women, but that didn’t stop both of Naomi’s sons from accidentally forgetting that rule. They got distracted. Of course, for Ruth she was doing nothing wrong as far as her own upbringing. It’s not her fault that Moabite women are so beautiful!

It’s one of the oldest problems in the Bible.

Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose. And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive[a] with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.
Genesis 6:1-3 (NKJV)

Did you notice that when Ruth told Naomi that Boaz had said, Ruth said that he had told her to “keep fast by my young men”. This was not what he had said, and Naomi instinctively knew that wasn’t what Boaz had told her to do. He had told her to “abide here fast by my maidens”, not the young men!

And Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, and that people do not meet you in any other field.” So she stayed close by the young women of Boaz, to glean until the end of barley harvest and wheat harvest; and she dwelt with her mother-in-law.
Ruth 2:22-23 (NKJV)

Ruth possibly thought that she could flirt with these men and that perhaps one of them would marry her and provide for her. It seemed like a good plan. But what she was failing to realise was that God was already providing for her through Boaz. She would therefore be wise to follow his counsel.

It’s easy for us to do the same in our lives and come up with little plans of how to provide for our basic needs, but as born again believers, God has already promised to provide for us everything we need and more.

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We need to fix our eyes on him, and avoid getting distracted by other things. We might not always be able to figure out what God is doing, but you can be sure it is a whole lot better than your little plan to provide for yourself!

Don’t get distracted. Be stable, and stay blessed.

Spirit and Ruth More than a Food Bank

This article is based on a talk given on Sunday, 6th June, 2021.

A man walks up to the Widow at a funeral and asks if he can say a word. "Of course", she replies. The man plucks up the courage and says, "Abundance". The Widow looks at him, teary eyed and says, "Thank you so much, that means a huge amount".

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The Book of Ruth is the story of two widows, Naomi, and her daughter-in-law Ruth. They leave Ruth’s home of Moab and move to Naomi’s home town of Bethlehem. In her search for food, Ruth finds herself in a field owned by a rich man named Boaz, who notices Ruth.

Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?”
So the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered and said, “It is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. And she said, ‘Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.’ So she came and has continued from morning until now, though she rested a little in the house.”

Ruth 2:5-7 (NKJV)

In recounting who Ruth is to Boaz, the servant points out something slightly unusual, which is that “she rested a little in the house”. It’s a small detail that is easily overlooked.

Then Boaz said to Ruth, “You will listen, my daughter, will you not? Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women. Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Have I not commanded the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.”
Ruth 2:8-9 (NKJV)

It is a beautiful moment when Boaz offers Ruth protection. Ruth had probably just hoped for just enough to keep her and Naomi alive, and even that was exhausting work and came with a risk of being beaten. But now she is being offered protection and encouraged to rest when she is thirsty. This clearly came as a shock to Ruth.

So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favour in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?”
And Boaz answered and said to her, “It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.”

Ruth 2:10-12 (NKJV)

God has a very special place for widows, and we see that come through in Boaz’s reaction to Ruth. He has seen Ruth, the young widow, taking care of Naomi, an older widow. He is so impressed by Ruth’s heart for Naomi that he wants to give her protection, in the same way that God protects those who shelter under his wings.

It wasn’t strictly necessary for Boaz to intervene. Ruth would have probably managed to gather enough food for her and Naomi, which was already being generously provided by the fact that the reapers were told not to pick up anything they had dropped.

It could be easy to read a passage like this, think we’ve understood God’s heart for widows, and then think the correct response is to set up a food bank or something similar to support the needy. I'm not arguing against food banks, but if that is your response to this passage, I think you've missed the point. Boaz went above and beyond for Ruth, and as the story continues, we see that Boaz, and ultimately God, continue to bless her in more ways than anyone could possibly imagine.

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In the early church, the disciples also discovered that some widows were being neglected in the day-to-day ministry of the church.
Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
Acts 6:1-4 (NKJV)

The disciples were called to take the message of the gospel all over the world. They recognised that they couldn’t do this and serve the widows in a way that would be worthy of the God whom they serve, which as we’ve seen goes way beyond our normal ways of thinking.

Again, it would be easy to read this passage and be encouraged to set up a food bank for widows, but God’s heart is bigger than that.

Remember that bit about Ruth resting a little in the house? It’s so easy to skip over it, but it shows how Ruth also knew her own limitations. She needed to rest. God never gives us more than we can handle. In fact, he wants us to do all that he has called us to do and still have time to rest. And that means trusting him with everything else.

Trying to do what they had been called to do and also take on this responsibility would have risked the disciples becoming unfocused. As soon as they recognised this risk, they appointed others so that they could be single-minded and stable in their calling.

The first of the seven people chosen by the disciples was Stephen. In verse 8, we hear how his work with the widows is going:
And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.
Acts 6:8 (NKJV)

By understanding God’s heart for widows, the disciples knew this was not just some food bank ministry they could quickly set up and get some new converts to run. This was huge, and if it is God’s will then God will provide the people.

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If only our food banks were more like those of the early church. I believe the widows went away from Stephen’s ministry not just free of hunger, but free of all sickness, free of all debt, full of peace and with a clear vision for their future. This was way more than just a food bank. As we read on in Acts, we also see that this offended some Jews in the synagogue so much that he was stoned to death.

“You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.” ... And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Acts 7:51,59 (NKJV)

Knowing God’s heart, knowing what we are called to specifically, and knowing that God will provide everything we need, will help us to remain stable, when things start to overwhelm us. This is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Stephen’s rebuke reminds us of the danger of being double-minded. There were, of course, three widows in the story of Ruth. The one we haven’t mentioned is Orpah, whose name means stiff-necked. She felt called to go with Naomi, but then was easily persuaded by selfish concerns to go back and leave Naomi. She was double-minded and unstable.

Whatever you are called to do, it is important to stick with it. Had Stephen worried about what the Jews in the synagogue were going to say, he would not have been able to do what God called him to do, which in his case was a call to be a martyr for Jesus, and he was stable right to the end.

Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Acts 7:60 (NKJV)

Be stable and stay blessed.