Four Signs You Might Have a Keeper, 5 May 2024

Four Signs You Might Have a Keeper
Ruth: Finding God in the Ordinary
Ruth 2:10-23
 
Series Big Idea: God does extraordinary things in and through the ordinary.
 
Big Idea: If you want a good friend, be a good friend.
 
What qualities do you look for in a friend?
 
Which of those qualities are people born with?
 
Which of those qualities are character that is developed?
 
Today’ we’re returning to the book of Ruth, one of the most fascinating stories in the Bible. The first chapter of the book introduces us to a woman named Naomi. She’s from Bethlehem—yes, that Bethlehem, though centuries before the birth of Jesus—and her family leaves during a famine and lives in Moab for about a decade. While there, her husband and two sons died, leaving her without the three men in her life, surrounded by her two daughters-in-law who are also widows. Naomi tells them to return to their mothers. One does, but Ruth refuses to leave her mother-in-law despite the bleak prospects of two widows trying to survive.
 
In chapter two, Boaz is introduced as this wealthy and influential man who hears about Ruth’s commitment to Naomi and her commitment to God. The big idea two weeks ago was God will bless our faithfulness to Him and His people. It’s not a magic formula, but Ruth is a stellar example of someone faithful to God and Naomi and Ruth blessed by a relationship with Boaz. Spoiler alert: they get married, so today, we’re looking at four signs you might have a keeper. This not only applies to dating and marriage, but any friendship.
  
Before we get into the four signs of a keeper, let
me say again if you want a good friend, be a good friend.
 
I used to wonder why I rarely had friends call me (some of you remember when you used a phone to talk to someone!) and then I realized I wasn’t initiating. Don’t expect a gift on your birthday if you don’t buy birthday gifts for others. Does this make sense? I’m not saying keep score. I am saying do to others what you want them to do to you.
 
If you want a good spouse, be a good spouse…be the type of person you want to attract. It sounds so obvious, but it’s amazing how many guys want a beautiful woman to show up on their doorstep while they are too lazy to bathe, have terrible manners, and won’t get a job!
 
What qualities do you look for in a friend? Do you have those qualities?
 
Today we’re going to explore four signs you might have a keeper, borrowed from Pastor Craig Groeschel of Life Church. I’ll tell them to you now:
 
Seeking Character (v.10-13)
Exploring Connection (v. 14)
Showing Consideration (v. 15-18)
Receiving Confirmation (v. 19-23)
 
Let’s go back and review. Ruth tells Naomi she’s going to glean, which means she’s going to look for grain stalks leftover from the harvesters. Boaz notices a new person in his field and shows her unusual kindness. In chapter two, verse ten, we’re told…
 
Ruth fell at his feet and thanked him warmly. “What have I done to deserve such kindness?” she asked. “I am only a foreigner.” (Ruth 2:10, NLT)   
 
“Yes, I know,” Boaz replied. “But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers. May the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.” (Ruth 2:11-12, NLT)
 
Ruth is a woman of great character, and Boaz takes notice. He’s also a person of great character himself. Are you?
 
Seeking Character (v.10-13)
 
We’re never told anything about Ruth’s physical appearance, but her inward character. She is faithful, hard-working, and humble. We saw that two weeks ago. What about you? Are you a man or woman of character? Are you friends? You are your friends. How do you treat others? None of us is perfect, but are you seeking to become like Jesus? Are you devoted to God? Are you filled with the Holy Spirit? The test of that is not a particular gift or sign, but fruit.
 
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (Galatians 5:22-23, NLT)
 
How do you get this fruit? They don’t sell it at Wal-Mart, but it comes from repenting of your sins and failures, following Jesus, and surrendering to the power of God. As our relationship with Him grows, we’ll naturally see more good fruit in our lives as the Spirit makes us more like Jesus. Let’s be men and women of character.
 
Boaz hears about Ruth’s character, extends kindness and grace, and then Ruth says,
 
“I hope I continue to please you, sir,” she replied. “You have comforted me by speaking so kindly to me, even though I am not one of your workers.” (Ruth 2:13, NLT)   
 
Their character led to a connection.
 
At mealtime Boaz called to her, “Come over here, and help yourself to some food. You can dip your bread in the sour wine.” So she sat with his harvesters, and Boaz gave her some roasted grain to eat. She ate all she wanted and still had some left over. (Ruth 2:14, NLT)   
 
This is not normal. Something special is happening. It’s not necessarily romantic, but Ruth is getting special treatment from Boaz. It will continue.
 
When Ruth went back to work again, Boaz ordered his young men, “Let her gather grain right among the sheaves without stopping her. 16 And pull out some heads of barley from the bundles and drop them on purpose for her. Let her pick them up, and don’t give her a hard time!” (Ruth 2:15-16, NLT)   
 
I’m sure you’ll agree food is a necessity in life. We all need it and will literally die if we go several weeks without it. Food is readily available to all of us today in Toledo. Even if you can’t afford to buy food or don’t know how to cook food, there are food pantries and soup kitchens and the Mac Café at Cherry Street Mission to ensure we stay alive. You might say there are many safety nets in urban Toledo to make hunger unnecessary, though some still experience it.
 
Today in many parts of the world, no such safety nets exist. We’ve all seen pictures and videos of starving children and I was deeply moved a few years ago when Heather and I were in Burundi, Africa. We taught many who rarely experience more than one or two meals a day and often go without any food. We were a part of a special celebration and I watched Heather literally food a starving baby.
 
Ruth and Naomi are widows and without husbands, starvation was a real possibility. Gleaning leftovers as the only safety net, but Boaz is so impressed with Ruth and her character that he goes out of his way to ensure she gets plenty of food.
 
Boaz was Showing Consideration to Ruth.
 
So Ruth gathered barley there all day, and when she beat out the grain that evening, it filled an entire basket. (Ruth 2:17, NLT)   
 
This basket was worth two weeks wages! That’s consideration.
 
If you want a Ruth, be a Boaz.
 
Character led to a connection which led to consideration and finally they were
 
Receiving Confirmation (v. 18-23)
 
She carried it back into town and showed it to her mother-in-law. Ruth also gave her the roasted grain that was left over from her meal. (Ruth 2:18, NLT)   
 
That’s a lot of food! It’s like going to Monnettes and bringing back a Costco load!
 
Where did you gather all this grain today?” Naomi asked. “Where did you work? May the LORD bless the one who helped you!”
 
So Ruth told her mother-in-law about the man in whose field she had worked. She said, “The man I worked with today is named Boaz.” (Ruth 2:19, NLT)   
 
Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, confirms Boaz is a good man. If you’re seeking a spouse, pay attention to what others say about your date. They might not always be right, but usually those who know and love us the most also know what’s best for us. Be very careful if you find yourself defending your date to your friends and family. They say love is blind, and it’s scientifically proven! We need to seek wise counsel from others in important life decisions, especially life partners.
 
“May the LORD bless him!” Naomi told her daughter-in-law. “He is showing his kindness to us as well as to your dead husband. That man is one of our closest relatives, one of our family redeemers.” (Ruth 2:20, NLT)
 
The Hebrew word here for kindness is
hesed. It appears three times in the book of Ruth. There’s not a good English equivalent, but it refers to God’s plan for humans, the Golden Rule, love your neighbor as yourself…selfless, active caring for others which seems to be rare in our narcissistic, self-centered culture. Naomi is saying Boaz is essentially acting like Jesus, our example of what it means to be human (even though this was centuries before Jesus’ birth). It is God’s hesed which is the real story here.
 
A family redeemer is someone who provides for someone who has had a great loss. Some translations call them a guardian redeemer or a kinsman redeemer. This goes back to the book of Leviticus.
 
If one of your fellow Israelites falls into poverty and is forced to sell some family land, then a close relative should buy it back for him. (Leviticus 25:25, NLT)
 
Numbers chapter 27 explains it further if you want to study it.
 
Then Ruth said, “What’s more, Boaz even told me to come back and stay with his harvesters until the entire harvest is completed.” (Ruth 2:21, NLT)   
 
“Good!” Naomi exclaimed. “Do as he said, my daughter. Stay with his young women right through the whole harvest. You might be harassed in other fields, but you’ll be safe with him.” (Ruth 2:22, NLT)   
 
This is such a beautiful story. It reminds me again of last week’s big idea that
God will bless our faithfulness to Him and His people. Ruth did not deserve any special treatment, especially being a foreigner from Moab, yet Boaz is gracious after learning about Ruth’s graciousness to Naomi, refusing to leave her alone.
 
So Ruth worked alongside the women in Boaz’s fields and gathered grain with them until the end of the barley harvest. Then she continued working with them through the wheat harvest in early summer. And all the while she lived with her mother-in-law. (Ruth 2:23, NLT)
 
This is hardly the end of the story. The best is yet to come!
   
 
So What?
 
Character, connection, consideration, and confirmation are four signs that you might have a keeper, whether it’s a spouse or a good friend. Pay attention. Men, be like Boaz. Women, be like Ruth. Be who you want to attract.
 
But before we close, I want to go back to Boaz as kinsman-redeemer or family-redeemer or guardian-redeemer. Boaz is not related to Naomi, but rather to her late husband. He was not the closest relative. Ruth is not even an Israelite, yet Boaz extends grace. He was motivated by love to redeem Ruth and Naomi.
 
We have a redeemer who protects, provides, and paid for our sins. His name is Jesus. He restores broken masterpieces. He loves you more than you can imagine. He doesn’t want you starving or even being stuck with the scraps and leftovers. He’s preparing a banquet feast for all who will follow him. Boaz is considered to be a “type” of Christ, a biblical character who prefigures or foreshadows Jesus. We’re going to see this more in the coming weeks but understand there are layers to this story. It’s not the typical boy meets girl, they fall in love, and life happily ever after. There are three main characters—Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz—plus God, the real star of the show! Do you know Him? Do you know God? Have you surrendered your life to Jesus? He gave everything for you, including his very life. You can return the favor by saying, “Jesus, I give you my life.”
  
One more thing
 
Today we’ve looked at four signs you might have a keeper, but what if it’s too late? What if you’re in a challenging marriage? Get help. Pray. Seek counseling (there’s a directory link at the bottom of the
FAC Focus e-newsletter each Wednesday). Most of all, be the spouse you want to have. Demonstrate character. Show kindness. Extend grace. Display the fruit of the Spirit. Don’t tolerate abuse. If you’re in danger, get out. But when it’s hard, seek to be part of the solution rather than prolonging the problem. Be the bigger person and make the first move toward love, forgiveness, mercy, grace. It’s not easy, but we serve a big God who can do incredibly more than we can ever ask, dream, or imagine…if we remain faithful to Him and His people.
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