A Righteous Man

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Ruth 2

INTRODUCTION: Today is the second week in our advent series called “Ruth – A Christmas Story.” We are walking our way through the book of Ruth and seeing how God used the people and events of this book to prepare the way for the coming of Christ at Christmas. For example, last week we saw that it was no coincidence that the events of Ruth and the events of Christmas both take place in Bethlehem. In fact the reason Jesus was born in Bethlehem at Christmas is because of what takes place here in the book of Ruth.

Last week we focused on the parallels between Ruth in the book of Ruth and Mary in the Christmas story. We said that Christmas is the story of a young woman who made a radical commitment of faith to God and then journeyed to Bethlehem where she gave birth to a child who would change the world. And then we saw that the book of Ruth is also the story of a young woman who made a radical commitment of faith to God and then journeyed to Bethlehem where she gave birth to a child who would change the world.

So last week we focused on the women in these stories. This week we will focus on the men. Because we could also describe the book of Ruth and the Christmas story this way. It is not only the story of a young woman who made a radical commitment of faith. It is also the story of a righteous man who offered kindness, protection and provision to a young woman in her time of need.

Once again we will walk our way through the whole second chapter of Ruth this morning, but let’s begin by reading verses 10-12. (Read Ruth 2:10-12 and pray.)

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When we last left Ruth and Naomi in chapter one, they had just returned to Bethlehem with nothing. Ten years earlier when Naomi left Bethlehem and moved to Moab, she had a husband and two sons. Now she returns as a widow with no children to her name. Ruth was from Moab and had married one of Naomi’s sons. When Naomi’s sons died, Ruth also became a widow. But Ruth was a young widow who could easily have remarried in Moab and had a family and a future of her own. Instead she committed herself to the Lord in faith and chose to go with Naomi to Bethlehem where it was unlikely she would ever remarry and have children.

Enter Boaz. Because the book of Ruth is not only a short story. It is a love story. It is not just the story of Ruth. It is the story of Ruth and Boaz. It is a beautiful story of faith and love and commitment resulting in the birth of a child who will change the world. And the predominant thing we learn about Boaz in chapter two is that he is a righteous man. The book of Ruth is the story of a righteous man who offered kindness, protection and provision to a young woman in her time of need.

So what is a righteous man? What does a righteous man look like? How does a righteous man act? As we meet Boaz this morning I want us to look at five characteristics of a righteous man that we find here in chapter two.

I. A righteous man puts God first in his life (Ruth 2:1-4)

First of all, a righteous man puts God first in his life. Let’s look at Ruth 2:1: “Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, from the clan of Elimelech, a man of standing, whose name was Boaz.” Here we learn that Boaz is related to Naomi on her husband’s side, and that he is a man of standing. The fact that he is related to her deceased husband will become very important later in the story. The fact that he is a man of standing tells us that he has power, wealth, influence and a good reputation in the community. When you read verse one, you just know that Boaz has an important part to play in this story.

In verse 2 Ruth makes the decision to go into the fields to glean. Look at verses 2-3:

And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.” Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter.” 3 So she went out and began to glean in the fields behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech. (Ruth 2:2-3)

If you remember from last week, Ruth and Naomi arrived in Bethlehem just as the barley harvest was beginning. When God gave Israel the law, he made provision for the poor people in the land. We read in Leviticus 23:22: “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 23:22) Ruth qualified as both poor and an alien, and so she went forth to glean.

And when she does, she just “happens” to find herself working in a field belonging to Boaz. The narrator is having some fun with us here, because we know and he knows that this is no coincidence. There are no coincidences in life, only God-incidences, and God’s hand is clearly at work in this turn of events.

And then in verse 4 we finally get to meet Boaz:

Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The Lord be with you!” “The Lord bless you!” they called back. (Ruth 2:4)

A righteous man puts God first in his life, and it is clear that Boaz puts God first in his life. The first words we hear from his lips are “The Lord” as he greets the harvesters: “The Lord be with you!” He is a good man who loves the Lord and loves people, and the people love him. The harvesters call back a blessing to him. “The Lord bless you!” they called back.

Do you put God first in your life? Do you treasure him above all else? A righteous man puts God first in his life.

II. A righteous man shows kindness to the poor (Ruth 2:5-10)

Secondly, a righteous man shows kindness to the poor. We see this in verses 5-10:

Boaz asked the foreman of his harvesters, “Whose young woman is that?” The foreman replied, “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.” (Ruth 2:5-7)

And so we come to that critical turning point in any love story. Boy meets girl; girl meets boy. Boaz is a wealthy land owner with many harvesters working his fields and plenty of the poor gleaning in them. And yet he takes notice of Ruth and asks his foreman about her. Notice how the foreman identifies her. He doesn’t even call her by name. She is “the Moabitess who came back from Moab with Naomi.” That is Ruth’s identity in Israel at this point. She is a foreigner. She is an outsider. She doesn’t belong here.

But Boaz not only notices her, he calls her over and speaks kindly to her. Look at verses 8-10:

So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. 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.” At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She exclaimed, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me – a foreigner?” (Ruth 2:8-10)

Boaz encourages Ruth to continue gleaning in his fields. He has told the men not to bother her. And he even gives her permission to drink from the men’s water jars. Ruth is astounded. She knows her place as a foreigner. And yet this wealthy man not only takes notice of her, he shows her kindness when she has no way to pay him back.

Jesus told us that’s the best way to give. In Luke 14 he said:

“When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:12-14)

That’s why I love ministries like Operation Christmas Child or the gifts you are giving to needy children in the community this Christmas. You are giving to people who not only can’t pay you back, they don’t even know who you are! Now that is truly unselfish giving. A righteous man shows kindness to the poor.

III. A righteous man encourages people in their walk with the Lord (Ruth 2:11-13)

Thirdly, a righteous man encourages people in their walk with the Lord. When Ruth asked Boaz why he was showing her such kindness he responded in verse 11:

“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 the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” (Ruth 2:11-12)

When Boaz looks at Ruth, he doesn’t just see a poor foreigner working in his fields. He sees a woman who made a radical commitment of faith to the Lord in taking care of Naomi and coming to Israel. And so he encourages her in her walk with the Lord. He speaks words of blessing over her. “May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”

Have you come to take refuge under the wings of the God of Israel? He is a loving God who will never leave you nor forsake you. No one who trusts in him will ever be put to shame. Jesus died on the cross so that you could have a relationship with God and come under his protection. Let’s remind each other of that. Let’s encourage each other to keep our eyes on Christ and look to him for our strength.

Ruth was certainly encouraged by Boaz’s words. Look at her response in verse 13:

“May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord,” she said. “You have given me comfort and have spoken kindly to your servant – though I do not have the standing of one of your servant girls.” (Ruth 2:13)

A righteous man encourages people in their walk with the Lord.

IV. A righteous man protects and provides (Ruth 2:14-16)

Fourthly, a righteous man protects and provides. Look at verses 14-16:

At mealtime Boaz said to her, “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. As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, “Even if she gathers among the sheaves, don’t embarrass her. Rather, pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.” (Ruth 2:14-16)

Boaz showed Ruth even further kindness by providing her a solid meal for lunch. This may have been her first good meal in a long time. She ate all she wanted and even had some left over. Then Boaz gave additional orders to the men. Usually the gleaners were only supposed to follow behind and pick up any of the stalks that fell on the ground. Boaz gives Ruth special permission to glean even among the sheaves, that is the piles of grain that the harvesters bundle together. Not only that, he tells them to pull out extra stalks on purpose and leave them on the ground for her. And once again he puts her under his protection. He has already told the men not to touch her. Now he tells them not to embarrass her or rebuke her.

A righteous man protects and provides. I would especially like to address any young men here this morning. Some day God may grant you a girl friend, and then a fiancée and then a wife. Your job as a man is to protect her and provide for her. Treat her with honor and respect both before and after marriage. Guard her purity and her reputation before marriage, and be faithful to her once you are married. Too many men in our society are not acting like men. Don’t be like the culture. A righteous man protects and provides.

V. God uses a righteous man to bless others (Ruth 2:17-23)

And then finally, God uses a righteous man to bless others. Boaz put God first in his life. He showed kindness to the poor. He encouraged Ruth in her walk with the Lord. He protected her and provided for her. And what was the result? Look at verse 17:

So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah. She carried it back to town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gathered. Ruth also brought out and gave her what she had left over after she had eaten enough. (Ruth 2:17-18)

Ruth worked hard all day, and when she threshed out the grain she had gathered, she had a whole ephah of grain. Now most of us don’t deal with ephas on a regular basis; there is no ephah on the scale at the local Publix. An ephah was about thirty pounds of grain. That was enough food for almost a month! Most gleaners would be happy to go home with one or two pounds of grain. Ruth comes struggling home with a whole sack full! Not only that, remember that meal of roasted grain she had for lunch? She put the leftovers in a doggie bag and brought it back to Naomi for supper.

Now it’s Naomi’s turn to be astounded. Look at verse 19:

Her mother-in-law asked her, “Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you!” Then Ruth told her mother-in-law about the one at whose place she had been working. “The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz,” she said. (Ruth 2:19)

Boaz! Naomi knows that name. Verse 20:

“The Lord bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He [that is, the Lord] has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers.” (Ruth 2:20)

Here Naomi introduces the concept of the kinsman-redeemer. This is a very important concept which we will look at next week as it is another key part of the story.

Ruth tells Naomi even more good news. Verse 21:

Then Ruth the Moabitess said, “He even said to me, ‘Stay with my workers until they finish harvesting all my grain.’” Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with his girls, because in someone else’s field you might be harmed.” (Ruth 2:21-22)

In other words this was not a one-day fluke. Ruth would continue to glean safely in the fields of Boaz throughout the entire harvest. And then in verse 23 we find yet another blessing:

So Ruth stayed close to the servant girls of Boaz to glean until the barley and wheat harvests were finished. And she lived with her mother-in-law. (Ruth 2:23)

Ruth gleaned in the fields not only for the barley harvest, but for the wheat harvest as well. The barley harvest lasted about three weeks, and the wheat harvest another four weeks beyond that. Ruth was blessed with seven weeks of solid gleaning in which she probably stored up sufficient food for the entire year. And all because of Boaz’ righteous actions.

You see God uses a righteous man to bless others. Do you want your life to be a blessing to others? Then follow God, follow Christ, and allow God to form his righteousness in you.

Back to the Christmas story: Now, you might be wondering, what does this have to do with the Christmas story? Well, the Christmas story is also the story of a righteous man who offered kindness, protection and provision to a young woman in her time of need. We read in Matthew 1:

Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-25)

Joseph was a righteous man. He put God first in his life as we can see from his obedience to God throughout this passage. He showed kindness to Mary when he found out she was pregnant. He protected her and planned to end the relationship quietly so she would not be exposed to public disgrace. But when God spoke to him through the angel, he took Mary home as his wife and provided for her as a husband provides for his wife.

The book of Ruth is the story of a righteous man who offered kindness, protection and provision to a young woman in her time of need. And the Christmas story is also the story of a righteous man who offered kindness, protection and provision to a young woman in her time of need.

How do you become a righteous person? It is only through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that any of us can become righteous before God. As the apostle Paul said in the book of Philippians: “That I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” (Philippians 3:8-9)

The title of today’s message is “A Righteous Man.” Because when it comes right down to it, there is only one true righteous man, and his name is Jesus. And yet through faith in him, you too may become righteous in God’s sight.

Put your faith in Christ, and then through Christ may you become a righteous man who puts God first in your life, who shows kindness to the poor, who encourages others in their walk with the Lord, who protects and provides, and may God use your life to bless others.

© Ray Fowler

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