Mercy, Blessings, and Character
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Mercy, Blessings, and Character

From Series: Lessons for Life, Volume 3

Ruth 2:1-23  (ID: 0106)

If God is sovereign over everything, do our decisions still matter? Under the guidance of God’s providential care, Ruth actively sought provision for herself and her mother-in-law Naomi. While she relied on God, she practiced common sense, thought carefully, and acted sensibly. Alistair Begg notes that Ruth’s story illustrates the tension between God’s providence and man’s actions. Like Ruth, when we recognize the provision of God, we should respond in wonder at His unfolding goodness.


Sermon Transcript: Print

Well, the book of Ruth is where we are. Ruth. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth. How many of you have honestly read ahead, read more than the first chapter? Put up your hand. There’s special credit for you. You get to scan your card twice. Just kidding! Sorry. Yeah, sorry. I don’t know how these things work.

Now, in the first verse we’re introduced to Boaz. We’ll come back to him later. The storyteller introduces him so as to create in the mind of the reader the question mark, “I wonder why we’re introduced to this character? I wonder if he’s going to be significant in the future?” Village life would have been abuzz. The harvesters would have been on their way. The air would have been filled with the smells and the sounds that were directly related to these things. Again, those of you who have grown up in farming communities know what a difference is represented in the harvest time of year.

I grew up in Glasgow, which is a big city—the second city of the British Empire at that time—and took vacations way up in the north of Scotland. And sometimes, on the September weekend, I was there right in time for what they call the tattie hawking. Tattie hawking. Which was potato picking. And I can still remember the scenes of the children who were discharged from school in order that they might ride on the backs of these low trailers, pulled in some cases by horses and in other cases by tractors, and the whole community life was consumed with this one question: “It is time now for us to get the harvest in.”

And so, Ruth—whether she conceived of it in her bed or whether it was the sounds of the day that stirred her to the thought—she said to Naomi, she said, “I think I’m gonna have a go into the fields picking up leftover grain.”

Now, of all the things she might have said in the morning, that may strike you as strange. But actually, the Old Testament law provided for people like Ruth and Naomi. God gave clear instructions—and I leave you to consider this in your homework; you can read it in Leviticus 19 and Deuteronomy 24—but he gave clear instructions that the harvester was not to reap right into the corners of the fields. When the harvesters went through, they weren’t to go through and take it out of all of the perimeter of the fields, nor were they to go through a second time and sweep up what was left over, the reason being that God had compassion for the poor and for the needy. And therefore, he left open to the poor and the needy the opportunity of following behind the harvesters and benefiting from the leftover grain.

And so, Ruth doesn’t ask her mother-in-law, “What do you have planned for me now that I’ve come here to live in your place?” Nor does she ask Naomi to join her. But instead, she determines that Naomi, presumably because of her status in life, because of her age, should enjoy the respite of home while Ruth, the younger woman, goes out now to try and make provision for herself and for her mother-in-law.

There’s nothing glorious in this. In contemporary terms, it would be like saying to your mother, “I think I’ll go out today and spend the day collecting ‘aluminium’ cans.” Sorry, “aluminum cans.” There’s a translation for you. But, “I’m gonna go and collect cans, and when I connect enough of these, then perhaps we’ll have enough to get ourselves something to eat at night.” So, while there is a sense in which the picture, looked back on from three thousand years, may seem, “Oh, that sounds like a nice idea, you know? Why don’t we go out into the field and just have a little afternoon in the sunshine picking up some bits and pieces of grain?”—it’s not like that at all. It is subsistence living. But she’s concerned not to provide only for herself but also for her mother-in-law.

And so, she puts herself in an environment that opens the possibilities for ostracism. After all, she’s a foreigner, and by and large, people don’t like foreigners. She puts herself in the place of physical harm, inasmuch as she’s going to be in the company of all of these men, and here they may be inclined to take advantage of her. But she does so because of her desire to be useful.

A commentator in an earlier era, from Scotland, says, “Young persons should be cheerfully willing to bear fatigues and troubles for the sake of their ag[ing] parents.” Now let me just say that to you again: “Young [people] should be cheerfully prepared to bear fatigues and troubles for the sake of their ag[ing] parents. … A young woman cheerfully laboring for [her] aged parents, is far happier than a fashionable lady spending in idleness and dissipation the fruits of the industry of her ancestors.”[1]

That’s a kind of quaint statement, but what it means is this: it is a tragic picture to see a woman walk through the mall in idleness, amassing more material possessions while neglecting her elderly parents—or, in male terms, the same. And one of the indications of a decaying culture is when a culture has more concern for its animals than it has for its elderly. When young people are more interested in the pursuit of their own agenda than they are in caring for those who have given them birth, who have nurtured them, who have provided for them, and who have sustained them on their journey. It’s not the main point, but it is an important point in passing. And I hope you will remember it! And not least of all, my kids, who are listening to me speak. Please don’t put me in one of those places. I’ll try not to drool. Look after me. They’re saying, “What do you mean? You drool already!” But anyway…

Now, Ruth is going out not on the basis of her rights; she has few rights to rely upon. She’s going to go out and rely upon favor: “Let me go to the fields and pick up … leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I [found] favor.” Remember, Noah found favor. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.[2]

She is teaching us by her attitude and by her actions that everything that God gives any of us and every opportunity of obtaining what we need is in itself an undeserved mercy from the giver of “every good and perfect gift.”[3] Everything that we enjoy of his provision. The fact that there is enough synovial fluid in our joints to not render us paralyzed with arthritis. The fact that there is enough fluid in our eyes to allow us to awaken to a new day and to look out on one another and the beauties of the day. The fact that our digestive system works. The fact that we’ve been able to move ourselves here, that we are ambulatory. Every good and perfect gift comes down from heaven, and she says, “I’m gonna go out into this day, and I’m going to do my best. But I recognize that I’m not gonna be able to walk into the community and say, ‘Hey, I’m Ruth! What do you have for me? I’m the Moabitess. Do you do anything for aliens around here?’” No, she says, “I’m going to go out into the fields, and I’m going to see if I can’t find favor in the eyes of someone.”

And so, Naomi, looking presumably upon her daughter-in-law with affection, says to her—verse 2b—“Go ahead, my daughter.” And she must have watched her up the street, committed her into the care of God, saw her hair bouncing on her shoulders as she went.

Every benefit that we enjoy, every mountain we climb, every word of cheer we’re able to offer is only by God’s grace.

I like Ruth, don’t you? I really like Ruth. She’s right up at the top of my people to like at the moment. She’s not sitting around waiting for a miraculous intervention, is she? She’s out looking for a job. That doesn’t sound very spiritual, does it? I mean, if she was really spiritual, presumably she’d just be sitting somewhere waiting for God to intervene, you know? No, she’s off her duff and she’s down the road, and she’s going to find an opportunity to provide for herself and for her mother-in-law. She’s hoping to find grace; she’s hoping to find favor in somebody’s eyes.

In other words—and don’t miss the ordinary things—she applies common sense. You ever heard of that? I mean, there’s such a classic lack of common sense, not least of all in the Christian church. So she takes common sense, and then she adds careful thought, and then to careful thought she adds sensible action. Try it sometime! You’ll be amazed what happens. Common sense, careful thought, followed by sensible action. She was ready to do what she could do and to leave in the care of God what she was unable to make happen.

She would have been delighted to discover Philippians 2, wouldn’t she? “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Sounds like something you’re supposed to do. “For it is God [who is at work] in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”[4] It is not that we simply sit and wait for the intervention of God. It is not that we run around leaving God behind. But it is that we get up and we do in the awareness that every benefit that we enjoy, that every mountain we climb, that every word of cheer we’re able to offer is only by his grace.

She’s prepared to seek the advice of those who are around her, to pay attention to those who are the encouragers of her. And the provision of God for her, as you see in this chapter, is undramatic; it is certainly not miraculous. In fact, from one perspective, it looks almost as if the whole thing happened by accident. Indeed, the terminology suggests that it was an accident, as you’ll see in just a moment. Because she goes out into a place that she doesn’t know, into a jumbled patchwork of fields. And she just happens—she just happens—to go to the field that is owned by… guess who? The chap we were just introduced to in passing in verse 1, a fellow by the name of Boaz.

Look at the little phrase there in the middle of verse 3: “As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz.” Why was she there? It just happened! In fact, the King James Version says, “Her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging [to] Boaz.” So what to Ruth was sheer coincidence, the result of an unplanned set of circumstances, we understand—looking now from the vantage point of history—we understand that it was actually part of God’s gracious provision for her.

Someone has written and said, “The misery or happiness of our [lives] is often derived from accidents that appear quite trivial.”[5] It is not my place now to get involved in this whole discussion with you, but the question of how we view the events of our lives falling out and the way in which we understand them under the providential care of God is something that we need to be very, very careful in wrestling with. God, who has the whole world in his hands, is, according to Ephesians 1:11, working all things out according to the purpose of his will, because “for from him and to him and through him are all things.”[6] That God is not ultimately concerned about your comfort. He’s not ultimately concerned about the comfort of Ruth and Naomi. That was a byproduct. He is concerned that you would become all that he desires for you to be, and that ultimately you would be conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And that’s why even the bad times can be good. That’s why even the dark clouds are purposeful. That’s why all of our days, we need to be going through them as Ruth goes through them, saying, “Okay, as the hymn writer puts it, ‘Forth in thy name, O Lord, I go, my daily labors to pursue; thee, only thee, resolve to know, in all I think and speak and do.’”[7] And in the common, everyday coming and goings of our lives, we discover that God is there.

Said Kuyper—Abraham Kuyper, that is, who was the Prime Minister of Holland—in his inaugural lecture at the Free University of Amsterdam, which was founded in 1880—Kuyper on that occasion pointed out to the gathered throng, “There is not an inch of the whole area of human existence of which Christ, the Sovereign of all, does not cy, ‘It is mine!’”[8] Not an inch that he doesn’t cry, “It is mine!”

So the one thing that you want to get from these things in Ruth, if you get nothing else, is the fact that all of your existence—the good, the bad, the ugly, the mistakes, the disappointments, the hopes, the dreams, the schemes—they’re all under the providential care of God. Your times are in his hands.[9] All the days of your life have been written in his book before one of them came to be.[10] You’re not bouncing around like a cork on the ocean. You’re not being tossed around in the sea of chance. You’re not held in the grip of a blind determinism. You don’t need to read your horoscope and find out how Sagittarius is doing this morning. You don’t need to be concerned about all these things, because you’re being trained in the school of God’s providence. And this undergirds, you see, this amazing story. It is, as we’ve said, an outworking of Romans 8:28.

Charles Simeon, in the eighteenth century—1759—declares, “What is before us, we know not, whether we shall live or die; but this we know, that all things are ordered and sure.”[11] See, providence is a big pillow on which to put your head at night. It’s a happy pillow on which to put your head at night. “Everything,” he goes on, “is ordered with unerring wisdom and unbounded love, by thee, our God, who art love.” Therefore, he prays, “Grant us in all things to see [your] hand; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Now, of course—and this came out in the questions last night—some people misunderstand such a view of God’s sovereign purpose as some form of blind determinism. And the Bible knows nothing of that. Determinism, by which we would be viewed simply as pawns moved around on a divine chess board, or as puppets, whose achievements are controlled by a divine puppeteer… No! There’s a paradox in this—leaves us wrestling with a juxtaposition of real choice and real responsibility, that God’s providence doesn’t override human decision and action.

For example, look at the story. Look at the events. Ruth’s request is whose request? Ruth’s! Naomi’s encouragement is whose? Naomi’s! Ruth’s arbitrary choice of a field in which to work—she goes, “I think I’ll work in this field”—is Ruth’s choice. Boaz’s free determination to harvest at this time and in this location is Boaz’s.

Now, you need to understand this. You need to think it out. You have the same thing in the story of Joseph. The animosity of Joseph’s brothers towards Joseph came from where? From the animosity of their hearts. God is not the author of their evil. And yet, by their own determined response to Joseph, they are setting forward the purpose of God by having Joseph end up in Egypt, so that out of Egypt may come a deliverer, so that from that deliverer may come he who is the ultimate deliverer, even Jesus Christ.

God’s providence doesn’t override human decision and action.

God’s providential care in the story of Ruth, as elsewhere, is expressed through the outworking of our free human choices, our decisions, and our responsibilities—and especially when life appears, as it must have done to Naomi, to be just a jumble of unconnected threads.

They say, “Well, you’ve made enough of that. You can go on now.” All right, fine. “I think we got that point,” you said. Fine. I hope you do, because it’s very, very important. ’Cause I find as I move around—and even in my own congregation—that people are buffeted from one side or the other. And they think that a view of the sovereign purpose of God is that somehow or another you got a divine puppeteer who’s just moving people around, that we’ve got nothing to do with anything; we’re just sitting around and wait for him to move and pull the levers. It’s not so. Others are running around as if their whole future depended upon them: “If I don’t do this and I don’t do that, I’ll never get this,” and so they’re just busting a gut trying to take care of everything. They’re as crazy as the other group, just in a different side. What do you need? You need to read your Bible. You read your Bible, you’ll be tremendously helped.

So she goes out, and she works in the field belonging to Boaz, and then the boss shows up—verse 4. What happens when the boss comes? Depends what the boss is like. We’ve all worked for bosses, haven’t we? I’ve had a number of bosses in my time. You’d be surprised at all the jobs I’ve had; I don’t have enough time to tell you of all of them.

For example, I was once a cheese cutter in a small supermarket in Yorkshire. Spent all day Saturday cutting up big blocks of cheese. It was a wonderful job—demanded tremendous intelligence, as you would understand. And what you had to do was slice it up, and then you put it in the cling wrap, and then you put the label on it after you’d weighed it—I did this with a friend of mine—and then you put it on the hot pad, to stick the label with the weight and the price on it, and then that sealed the back of the thing. And then, when you filled a tray of it, you took it downstairs into the store and you it in a thing. And then you came back up, and you did again and again and again and again…

And Monday morning I came in—Monday afternoon, I should say—after I finished school, I came in, and the boss was waiting for me. He said, “Come ’ere and ’ave a look at this.” That’s the way they speak in Yorkshire. So I went over, and he took me to the place where I put all the cheese from the Saturday—this was Monday afternoon, when I finished school—and he began to turn them over. And as he turned them over, the cheese had already, in places, started to become toasted cheese. Because, obviously, we left it on the little burner a little bit long, and so it started to burn the back of the cheese. So the Wensleydale, which should be white, was looking a little kinda yellow, tending towards orange—more sort of medium well, well-done. And the thing was a disaster. There’s no question.

But at quarter past, half past four on a Monday afternoon, it just struck me as very funny. And so, I just stood and looked at the cheese and laughed. And that was it: “Goodbye, and thank you.” He told me, “Get y’coat—get y’coat, lad—and get up the street.” I said, “Okay.” So I left there, and I knew I’m dead meat, because if I go home now, I got fired, and that’s not good. So I went to Woolworths, and in Woolworths I got another job stacking Easter eggs.

And I could tell you about a lot of other bosses, but… Boaz was a nice boss. ’Cause he shows up and he says, “Good morning, everybody. The Lord be with you! May God’s presence and his favor satisfy your souls.” That’s not a bad boss! And they replied—look at the group— “And may the Lord bless you!”[12] Hey, it’s a great day, isn’t it? It’s a wonderful day in the neighborhood. You expect Mr. Rogers to come out here at any time, wearing a cardigan. And he said, “The Lord be with you, and the Lord bless you, and you bless the Lord,” and it’s just a wonderful time. Notice that they’re not taking the name of Lord in vain. They’re not profaning his name. They’re recognizing that God is in everything.

I need to move quickly here, but you can tell a lot about a person by their hellos and their goodbyes. You call tell a lot about yourself about the way you say hello and goodbye. And am I missing the point, or is the average American boy hopeless at hellos and goodbyes? We’ll leave the girls aside for a moment. But the average kid, you see him in the hallway or in the street: “Hey, Joe, how are you?”

“Good.”

“Sorry, son?”

“Good.”

“Were you burping, or was that a word? What are you saying?”

“Good.”

“Okay, fine. See you around, Joe.”

“Yeah.”

Now Joe is a teenager: “How are you, Joe?” “Good.”

Joe is now working: “How are you?” “Good.”

Joe is a complete ignoramus.

If somebody says to you, “Good morning”—sorry to be so basic—or they say, “How are you?” you say, “I’m fine, thank you. And how are you?” If you care. Of course, if you’re completely wrapped up in yourself, just say, “Good,” and keep walking. But if you have any interest at all in the fact that there is another specimen of humanity within your airspace, about whom you may just have the slightest consideration, then perhaps you may do them the courtesy of acknowledging their existence and inclining your mind to their circumstances.

And when you say goodbye to people, remember this: there will be a last time for every goodbye. There will be a last time that you reverse out of the parking space. There will be a last time you greet your roommate. There will be a last time you say goodbye to your mom. And you may never know when that last time is. Therefore, you should treat every hello—and I’m not talking about walking around with a French horn or something, you know, like … “Hello!” you know? I don’t mean that. I just mean a basic “Hello!” and “Goodbye.”

“God be with you!” Because if he isn’t, you’re on your own. The average American—it happened to me the other day in the airport. And I’m sorry, this is an American feature: this is the place where it is easy to make friends and lose them immediately. This is the land of acquaintance. This is the land of ships passing in the night. This is the land of transience. This is the land of “Hello, I must be going.” You wanna be different? Be different in your hellos and be different in your goodbyes. I’m standing at the airport like a dufus, waving to nobody, as the guy who has dropped me off has already tuned in his radio station, kissed me goodbye a long time ago—metaphorically—and has now moved on to his next thing. But I’m there to say, “Bye…” Now, I don’t expect him to come out and hug me and kiss me and, you know, playing musical instruments. But we just spent two days together!

You say, “Where are you getting all this from?” I don’t know. I’m just making it up, mainly. But it just struck me—it just struck me that in the greetings—in the greetings—there is an expression of who we are and what we are.

And this approach on Boaz’s part, I don’t think it’s formal and ostentatious; I think it’s casual and it’s sincere. I don’t think he wrote in his Day-Timer, you know, or in his Palm Pilot, “Um, 7:00 a.m., greet the harvesters with the usual ‘The Lord bless you.’” You know? Nah, he just said, “Hey guys, what a great day. Isn’t it amazing that we have a harvest, that God is our provider, that we have the privilege of employment, that we have the opportunity to work together in this way? May the Lord be with you.” And they replied, “And may he be with you too.” And then it is in that environment that this lovely encounter takes place.

Now, if we make any attempt at all at getting beyond chapter 2, I need to just fast-forward right through the chapter. I just want to go to one concluding thought. Because what happens here in relationship to Boaz and Ruth is really fantastic. He takes her, and he introduces her to the group. He takes her and shows her where the water cooler is, in verse 9. He shows her around: “You can get a drink from the water jars over here,” he says. She is so overwhelmed by it she says, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?” It’s not that she’s sitting, having a drink of water, and saying to herself, “You know, hey, I nailed this! Wait till I get back and tell Naomi how smart I am, you know. I chose the right field. Man, I’m good! And, you know… and I could tell the way he looked at me, you know, he’s kinda jazzed; he likes me. And hey, it’s no surprise! Look at me! You know, I’m beautiful! And man, I am good, you know. I am good.”

No, you’re not. No, I’m not. Whatever you’re really good at, you’re good at it by the grace of God. Therefore, every benefit, every blessing, every encouragement, every point along the journey that points to it must elicit the same response: “Naomi, I think I’ll go out and see if I can glean in someone’s field in whose eyes I may find favor.” Then she finds favor. And her response is the right one—verse 10: “Why have I found such favor?”

You see, the unfolding of God’s goodness to us must not produce in us self-aggrandizement and self-assertiveness but must produce in us the sense of wonder: “Why did I get such a wonderful privilege as this?” Whatever that privilege may be, however apparently trivial it may appear to be.

So, you’ve got, really, the summary. “Let me go and find favor,” verse 2. Verse 10: “Why have I found favor?” Verse 13: “May I continue to find favor.” That’s really it. “I’m gonna be in today, and I’m gonna ask God for favor. When I discover his favor, I’m gonna say, ‘Why should I have discovered your favor?’ And then, having discovered your favor, I want to discover more of your favor. May I continue?”

The unfolding of God’s goodness to us must produce in us not self-aggrandizement and self-assertiveness but the sense of wonder.

And, of course, what a wonderful provision she gets. And Boaz gives instruction—verse 15—to his men: “Even if she [kinda messes up and] gathers among the sheaves, don’t embarrass her. … Pull out some stalks for her from the bundles … leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.” And so Ruth goes gangbusters at it. She gleans in the field until evening. She threshes the barley. She gathers it. She’s got a huge, big sack—huge, big thing, an epha, which down at the bottom of my Bible says is probably three-fifths of a bushel. Which, of course, is no help to me, because I don’t know what a bushel is. But I’m glad, because you haven’t got a clue either, so I’m just gonna tell you it’s about twenty-two liters, and since you don’t know what liters are, you’re completely at sea. It’s a big bundle of stuff, all right?

She went off in the morning with squat, and she comes back with a huge, big thing. She’s coming down the street. Naomi had watched her go; now she’s watching for her to come back. And here she comes “just a-walkin’ down the street, singing,” you know, “do wah diddy diddy dum diddy do.”[13] “I gleaned good (I gleaned good), I gleaned hard (I gleaned hard),” you know? So she’s coming down the road, and Naomi’s watching for her. And she comes back, and she puts the bundle down—verse 19, ’cause we gotta stop—she puts the bundle down, and Ruth told her mother-in-law about the one at whose place she had been working. “Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you!” And she told her, “Boaz.” And Naomi says, “May the Lord bless him.”

See how blessings come around? Boaz shows up at his work, and he says to his workers, “The Lord bless you!” They said, “And the Lord bless you too!” Boaz is now going on with his evening, and somewhere in a house far removed from him, there is an unknown widow praying down the blessing of God upon this same man. “He has[n’t] stopped showing his kindness …. [This] man is our close relative; he[’s] one of our kinsman-redeemers.” I’ll tell you about that tomorrow morning, if any of you come back.

And verse 21: “Then Ruth the Moabitess said, ‘He even said to me, “Stay with my workers until they[’ve] finish[ed] harvesting all my grain.”’” In other words, he is providing for her the place of protection and of provision.

Now, you gotta remember, this is a Jewish lady here. If you know Jewish moms—and I grew up, a third of my class in Glasgow were all Jewish. So I spent all my time with Jewish boys and girls. I’ll tell you about that another time. But I met a lot of Jewish moms. And Jewish moms are heavy duty. They’re wonderful ladies, but they know what’s going on. And they make it very clear that they are in control of what’s going on.

And you see this coming in here, don’t you? It’s basically, it’s the end of the day, and it’s “He said, she said, she said, he said,” “What did you say? And then what did you say? And where did you go?” and “He took me to the water cooler,” and “How did that feel? And what did he say?” and “He said this, and she said this…” It’s just this animated conversation, you know, between these two ladies. And she says, “He actually said to me, ‘You can stay with my workers.’”

And Naomi said to Ruth, “It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with his girls.” You notice that? “To go with his girls, because in someone else’s field you might be harmed.”

See the protection of Naomi? ’Cause she knows all those harvesters are all out there, going, “Hey, hey. Who’s the cute one? Who’s the girl? Where did she come from? Who’s the new one?” Even Boaz shows up, and he says, “Who’s this?”

And the person says, “This is the Moabitess.”

“It is? What’s she like?”

“She’s good! She works hard. She doesn’t ask for anything. She’s a good, good worker.” Boaz says, “That’s interesting.”

In other words, he’s not attracted to this girl, in the first instance, because of her shape. Because her shape would have been obscured by her clothes. You wanna snare somebody by your shape? Go ahead! You wanna marry a shape? I got news for you: you marry a shape, the shape won’t stay that shape! And you, Mr. Fancy Pants, you gotta understand: you ain’t staying that shape either. In fact, you’re already not that shape!

It is one thing for a girl to make herself attractive; it is another thing for a girl to make herself seductive. You girls know the difference, and so do we men. The attraction here is not an attraction of physicality. It is an attraction of character. It is an attraction of endeavor. It is an attraction that is built out of the things that are lasting values on the journey of life. Take my advice as an old man: the kind of jewelry you want to find your girl wearing is the jewelry from 1 Peter: “of a gentle and [a] quiet spirit.”[14] And the kind of attractive qualities that you’re looking for in a guy is, first of all, a guy who doesn’t take himself too seriously, who’s able to laugh at himself, who knows, frankly, that he is a large pain in the neck, because his mother told him that and his sisters confirmed it.

As soon—this is just a sidebar, in closing, on how to find a wife or a husband. But as soon as you know he’s there, then you can continue the conversation. If he isn’t there, then let him stew in the oven for a while in the hope that he may get there, but pay no attention to him at all. Because you don’t want to have any time with him. None at all.

So, Naomi… The time is gone; we’re done. Naomi, she says, “It’d be good for you to stay with his girls.” Ancient Scottish commentator gets the last word. Here it is. (And I’m gonna mention this again tomorrow morning. I’m gonna talk about arranged marriages, just to go out on a low note.) “What [number] of young persons take rash steps in the journey of life, which cannot be retraced, because they rather choose to follow the impulse of their own passions, than to ask and follow the [advice] of those who brought them into the world!”[15] It’s interesting, isn’t it?

When did you get so smart? It’s only a matter of a few years since you would go up and down the stairs asking your mother, “Do you think these shoes go with these trousers? Do you think that this goes with this? What should I do with this? Do you like my hair like this? What about that? Do you like this? Should I get that? What course should I take? Could you help me with this?” And so on.

And then, all of a sudden, you come walking in the door with this guy. Say, “Who’s this?”

“This is,” you know, “Bartholomew.”

“Well, who the devil’s Bartholomew?”

“He’s the love of my life! He’s my ticket to nirvana. He’s my future. Aren’t you, honey?

“I hope not!”

“Why?”

“’Cause I never met the sucker before!”

“Well, who are you?”

“I’m your dad!”

“You mean you got a say in this?”

“I hope so. I love you with a passion. I’ve watched you every inch of your growth. I think I know you as well as anybody on the face of God’s earth. I’m glad you brought him home. But honey, don’t let a friendship be anything more than a friendship when it begins.”

And most of the foul-ups in interpersonal relationships in your arena have to do with a physicality that is driven by a culture in which we live. And one of the ways that you can stand true and obviously, definitively different in this community is to learn not to go with the rash impulses of your passions but to check them against the advice and counsel of those who love you most and care for you most, so that together you may be able to go forward and, like Ruth, say, “I’m going to go and find favor. Why have I found favor? I hope in the rest of the day I will live under God’s smile.”

Let’s pray together:

Father, thank you, again, for the Bible. Thank you for the story of Ruth. Thank you for the privilege of being in this place, at this time, today. Anything that is just drivel, we pray that you will banish it from our minds; anything that is untrue, that it may be corrected in our own reading and further study; and only that which is of yourself and makes for the building up of men and women, may it be retained, and may it stir within our hearts a passionate longing to live for the praise of your glory.

We thank you for the prospect of this day, for the privilege of this time, for all that remains to us to enjoy in seminars, and studies, and praise, and the interaction with our friends. We commit our loved ones into your care, and we thank you for your abiding love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


[1] George Lawson, Practical Expositions of the Whole Books of Ruth and Esther (Philadelphia, 1870), 63.

[2] See Genesis 6:8.

[3] James 1:17 (NIV 1984).

[4] Philippians 2:12−13 (KJV).

[5] Lawson, Practical Expositions, 66.

[6] Romans 11:36 (paraphrased).

[7] Charles Wesley, “Forth in Thy Name, O Lord, I Go” (1749). Lyrics lightly altered.

[8] “Sphere Sovereignty,” in Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader, ed. James D. Bratt (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 488. Paraphrased.

[9] See Psalm 31:15.

[10] See Psalm 139:16.

[11] Charles Simeon, quoted in David Atkinson, The Message of Ruth: The Wings of Refuge, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1991), 62.

[12] Ruth 2:4 (paraphrased).

[13] Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” (1963).

[14] 1 Peter 3:4 (NIV 1984).

[15] Lawson, Practical Expositions, 92.

Copyright © 2021, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.