A Righteous Man

This morning is the second in our series on the Christmas story and the book of Ruth.  We’re walking our way through the book of Ruth and seeing how God used the people and the events of this book to prepare the way for the coming of Christ.  For example, last week we saw that it was no coincidence that the events of Ruth and the birth of Jesus Christ both take place in the town of Bethlehem.  

            Last week, in Ruth chapter 1, we focused on the parallels between the young woman Ruth and Mary, the mother of Jesus.  We said that the Christmas story 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 morning, we’re going to focus on the men.  Because we could also describe the book of Ruth and the Christmas story in 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.

            When we left off with Ruth and Naomi in chapter one, they had just returned to Bethlehem with nothing.  Ten years earlier, when Naomi moved to Moab, she had a husband and two sons.  Now she returns as a widow with no children.  Ruth was from Moab and she 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.  But instead, she chose to commit herself to the Lord in faith and she chose to go with Naomi to Bethlehem where it seemed unlikely she would ever remarry and have children.

            But here’s where Boaz enters the picture.  Because the book of Ruth is a love story.  And it’s not just the story of Ruth.  It’s the story of Ruth and Boaz.  And the most important thing we learn about Boaz in chapter two is that he was 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 exactly is a righteous man?  What does a righteous man look like?  How does a righteous man behave?  As we read about 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)

            We begin reading in chapter two with the first verse.  “Now Naomi had a relative of her husband’s, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz.” (Ruth 2:1).  We learn here that Boaz was related to Naomi on her deceased husband’s side of the family.  This is going to be very important later in the story.

            And then, Boaz is described as a “worthy man”.  The Hebrew word that used there can actually mean a variety of things and we see this in different translations.  Boaz was a “man of standing” (NIV), he was a “wealthy and influential man” (NLT), he was a “prominent man of noble character” (Berean).  

            All of those ideas are summed up in this one Hebrew word.  So, Boaz was a man of power, wealth, and influence and a man with a good reputation in the community.  So, we get the sense that Boaz is going to have an important part to play in this story.

            In verse 2, Ruth makes the decision to go into the fields to glean.  “And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, ‘Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.’  And she said to her, ‘Go, my daughter.” (Ruth 2:2)

            These two women are very hungry. They have no food. They’re flat broke. And usually your husband, your father, your sons, would be your protector, your defender, but these two women have no husband, they have no father, they have no son. They’re all by themselves. They’re hungry.  There’s no food on the shelves.

            And Ruth looks at her mother-in-law and she says, “I’d like your permission to go out in the fields and glean.”  Now, 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, “And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 23:22)

            God told his people, “The land you own really belongs to me.  So, when you work the land, you can harvest what I give you for food, but don’t take all of the food.  Leave a little bit around the edges so that the poor, the widow, the orphan, the foreigner, the oppressed, the immigrant, the needy, can work” – not just get a handout, but work – “come to the field, and take some of the food home for themselves and their family.”

            You might say this was the Hebrew welfare system.  And Ruth qualified both as someone who was poor and someone who was a sojourner, a foreigner living in the land.  So, she went forth to glean and she says, “Maybe, just maybe, somebody will be nice and help us out.”

            Verse 3, “So she set out 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 clan of Elimelech.” (Ruth 2:2-3)

            The writer tells us that Ruth just “happened” to find herself working in a field belonging to Boaz. And I think the writer of this story probably used air quotes when he wrote that verse, because we know and he knows that this didn’t just happen.  This is no coincidence.  God’s hand is clearly at work in this turn of events.

            This is the providence of God.  Remember, last week, I said that one of the key themes of the book of Ruth is the providence of God, the idea, that God sometimes works through miracles, but also works through his hand of providence.

            And so, Ruth just “happens” to end up in the field of Boaz, and then in verse 4, we finally get to meet Boaz. “And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you!” And they answered, “The Lord bless you.” (Ruth 2:4)

            Wouldn’t it be great to work in a place like this, where the owner shows up and he greets all his workers by saying, “The Lord be with you!”  And they all return the blessing, “The Lord bless you!”  which is the priestly blessing of Numbers 6:24.

            A righteous man is someone who puts God first in his life, and it’s clear that that’s the kind of man that Boaz was.  The very first words we hear from his lips call down a blessing from the Lord.   Boaz is a good man who loved the Lord and he loved people, and the people obviously loved him as well.

            So, the first question I have for you is this – Are you someone who puts God first in your life?  Do you treasure him above all else?  Is God constantly in your thoughts and in your words?  A righteous man puts God first in his life.

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

            We see this beginning in verse 5.   “Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, ‘Whose young woman is this?’  And the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, ‘She is the young Moabite woman, who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab.  She said, “Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.’  So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest.’” (Ruth 2:5-7)

            And so now 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 he asks his foreman about her.  Notice how the foreman identifies her.  He doesn’t even call her by name.  She is simply “the young Moabite woman, who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab.” 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.  Beginning in verse 8, “Then Boaz said to Ruth, ‘Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women.  Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them.  Have I not charged the young men not to touch you?  And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.’” (Ruth 2:8-9)

            Boaz encourages Ruth to continue gleaning in his fields.  He has given instructions to his men not to bother her.  You might say this is the first sexual harassment policy in all of scripture.  Boaz makes this rule. He gets all the young men together.  He says, “Boys, you see that Moabite woman over there?  Yes, I know she’s cute.  But if you touch her, I have a big field. They will never find your body.  You understand?”   Boaz is a protector, a provider, a defender.  

            And Ruth is astounded.  “Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, ‘Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?’” (Ruth 2:10).  Ruth 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 dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid.  But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.  For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14)

            That’s why I love so many of the ministries that we have going on here at Cruciform, like our Food Pantry, and our Coat Drive.  You and I have the opportunity to be like Boaz and to be like Jesus, and to love others around us and to share with them and be gracious to them.  Even if we don’t have much, we can still share.

            And when we share, and when we’re generous, and when we give, particularly to the poor and the needy, we don’t do it so that God will love us.  We don’t do it so that we can earn points with God.  We don’t do it so that others will think well of us.  Or so that we can be honored by the community.  No, we give because we have the understanding that, like the field of Boaz, everything we own belongs to God, and God gives to me, and God gives to me so that I can share with others.

            A righteous man shows kindness to the poor.

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

            When Ruth asked Boaz why he was showing her such kindness, he responded in verse 11, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before.  The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you 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.  

            In essence, Boaz says, “Ruth, your character, your reputation precedes you.  Everybody is talking about you. You’ve had a rough life, but I admire you.  You left your family to come to Bethlehem to worship God.  You’ve come here to walk with God’s people. You’ve been loyal and faithful to your mother-in-law.  I respect you.”

            And so, he encourages her in her walk with the Lord. He speaks words of blessing over her. “The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!”

            Ruth was certainly encouraged by Boaz’s words. Her response in verse 13, “I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants.” (Ruth 2:13)

            The message of the gospel is that you and I are like Ruth — we’re all sinners, we’re rebels. We come from the wrong background. We come to the Lord empty-handed and needy, and Jesus Christ is like Boaz. 

            And just as Boaz looked out over his field and saw Ruth, so Jesus has looked out into this world and seen us, and as Boaz pursued Ruth, so Jesus has pursued us, and as Boaz spoke to Ruth kindly, so Jesus has spoken to us kindly, and as Boaz went far beyond the requirements of the law, all the way to grace, so Jesus Christ has gone far beyond the requirements of the law, all the way to grace, and we have found, to use the words of Ruth, “favor in your eyes, my Lord.”

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

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

            Verse 14, “And at mealtime Boaz said to her, ‘Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.’  So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over.  When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, ‘Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her.  And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not 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.  

            A righteous man protects and provides.  I am especially speaking to any young men here this morning.  Someday God may bless you with you with a girlfriend, and then a fiancée and then a wife.  Your job as a man is to protect her and to 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 around you.  A righteous man protects and provides.

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

            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 she gleaned in the field until evening.  Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley.  And she took it up and went into the city.  Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned.  She also brought out and gave her what food she had left over after being satisfied.” (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 ephahs on a regular basis.  You’re not going to find an ephah on the scale at the local Harris Teeter.  But an ephah was about thirty pounds of grain.  That was enough food for almost a month!  Most gleaners would have been 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.

            And now it’s Naomi’s turn to be astonished. Verse 19, “And her mother-in-law said to her, ‘Where did you glean today? And where have you worked?  Blessed be the man who took notice of you.’  So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, ‘The man’s name with whom I worked today is Boaz.’” (Ruth 2:19)

            Boaz!  Naomi knows that name. Verse 20, “And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, ‘May he be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!’  Naomi also said to her, ‘The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.’” (Ruth 2:20)

            Naomi introduces here the concept of the kinsman-redeemer. This is an important concept that we’re going to look at next week because it’s another key part of this story.

            Ruth tells Naomi even more good news. Verse 21, “And Ruth the Moabite said, ‘Besides, he said to me, “You shall keep close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.”’  And Naomi said to Ruth, her daughter-in-law, ‘It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, lest in another field you be assaulted.’” (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 she kept close to the young women of Boaz, gleaning until the end of the barley and wheat harvests. And she lived with her mother-in-law.” (Ruth 2:23)

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

            You see, God uses a righteous man to bless others.  If you want your life to be a blessing to others, then you need to follow God, follow Jesus Christ, and allow God to form his righteousness in you.

            But, by now, some of you may be wondering, what does any of 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:

            “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 

            “But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ 

            “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:  ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us). 

            “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his 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 that she wouldn’t 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 her husband.

            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.

            So, how do you become a righteous person?  We need to understand that 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 comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” (Philippians 3:8-9)

            The title of this morning’s message is “A Righteous Man.”  Because when it comes right down to it, there’s only one true righteous man, and his name is Jesus.  And yet through faith in him, we too can 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, someone 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.

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