Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: If you want to avoid big, public, humiliating sins, it helps to be disciplined in small things. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: If I am not willing to let God control my life in the areas of what I eat and how I use my time and how I do my work—if I’m not disciplined in those areas, disciplined by the Spirit of God—then what makes me think that under pressure I will be morally disciplined?

Leslie: It’s Monday, July 9, and this is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

A lot of people think that worship is something we do on Sunday, and work is something we dread on Monday. We’ll hear a different perspective today as we continue looking at the life of Ruth. As a poor widow, she had to work hard but didn’t resent it. Let’s join Nancy in a series called Ruth: The Transforming Power of Redeeming Love.

Nancy: We come today again to chapter 2 in our study of the book of Ruth. The word that stands out to me from this chapter is the word refuge. We’re going to see that Ruth finds a refuge. The grace of God becomes her refuge even though she’s a widow—she’s a foreigner now living in the land of Israel. She’s returned with her mother-in-law, Naomi, to Bethlehem from the land of Moab.

But she is very lonely. She has just this bitter, frustrated mother-in-law that she’s living with. And she’s very alone as a widow and a foreigner in this culture. The Scripture gives us a little glimpse of what’s coming and tells us that “Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, from the clan of Elimelech [Elimelech was her husband] a man of standing, whose name was Boaz” (verse 1).

We’re reminded of the law of the kinsman-redeemer: God’s provision where a relative would help his impoverished relatives. We’re going to come to more of that as we move into these remaining chapters of the book of Ruth.

But we’re told something here, as the readers, that Ruth and Naomi know nothing of at this point. Although they are among the poorest people in the land, they have a wealthy relative—Naomi does—who is actually going to become their redeemer.

And how often in the circumstances of life—when we feel trapped and alone and poverty-stricken, whether literally or in our spirit—we feel like there’s no place to turn. What we don’t know is what God knows, and that is the rest of the picture, the rest of the story: that God has a provision in place, and that in His way and in His time He will bring that provision to bear in our lives.

Now, as we begin in chapter two, I see some things in Ruth in this chapter. We haven’t heard a lot about Ruth in chapter one; we focused a little bit more on Naomi. But Ruth, to me, becomes a real contrast to Naomi in a number of respects. We’re going to see that Ruth had a very different view of God than Naomi did.

We saw that Naomi viewed God as being her enemy. She said repeatedly in chapter one, “The Almighty has brought affliction on me. He has brought misfortune into my life.” There’s a sense that God has not been fair to me, that the circumstances that have come into my life are God’s fault. If He had really been alert, He would not have let these things come into my life.

Now, we’d never say those words, but at times we’re tempted to feel that way and to think that could be true. But we’ll see in Ruth a totally different view of God over these next days as we look at chapter two.

As a result of her view of God, she had a very different spirit from Naomi. You never see in Ruth a hint of the bitterness and resentment that we saw over these last days coming out of Naomi’s life. It’s just not there. There’s a freedom, a sweetness, a wholeness, and a release in her life. There’s a beauty there. That’s what makes a woman truly beautiful.

We’re going to see in this woman the qualities of virtue. In fact, many of the qualities we’ll see in Ruth’s life are the very same qualities that are listed in Proverbs 31 of a virtuous woman.

The Jews have a tradition that King Solomon wrote Proverbs 31 after being told as a young man by his mother—and who was Solomon’s mother? Bathsheba—perhaps by his mother, Bathsheba, about his ancestress Ruth, who would have been Solomon’s great-great-grandmother. Perhaps she was describing this woman to her son, teaching her son what kind of wife he ought to look for—what qualities he should look for in a wife.

So you’ll see a portrait in this book of beautiful, godly womanhood. We see in her the fruit of conversion. Ladies, if you and I have been really converted, there will be fruit. There will be evidence. There will be results.

Now, that doesn’t mean that the day after we’re converted, all of a sudden we look like Jesus. There’s a process. It’s called sanctification. I’m so thrilled for some of the high school girls who have been able to join us today to be hearing what it is that some of us as older women wish we had understood years ago—I see a lot of heads nodding here—and to be able to learn these things as young women.

I want to encourage you, young women. Make this kind of woman your hero. Don’t get your view of womanhood from the women on TV, the women in People magazine, the women who are the heroes of our culture. What you’ll see in the world is just the opposite of what you’ll see in this woman. My prayer for you young women is that you will become “Ruths,” that you’ll have this kind of spirit. This is the fruit of the Spirit produced in Ruth’s life.

I can read this story and start to feel so far behind, so unlike the spirit I see in Ruth. And then I’m reminded that the same Spirit that came upon Ruth in an Old Testament sense lives in me. Christ in me is my hope of glory. He’s the One who’s making me and transforming me, and He is going to produce these qualities, this fruit, in my life.

Now, let’s just walk through the chapter. This will take us the next few days. We’re going to pick out some of the qualities that we see in Ruth’s life that we want to be true in our lives as women of God.

Ruth chapter two, verses two and three: “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.’ So she went out and began to glean in the fields behind the harvesters.”

Many of you are familiar with the Old Testament concept of gleaning. But for those of you who may not be, let’s be reminded that this is an Old Testament provision for the poor. It was God’s welfare system. It was God’s provision for the needs of the poor and the helpless. It reflected a concern for those who were without.

The law required that reapers, when it came to harvest time, not try to get all of the grain on every corner of the field. They were to let some of it go, to leave some leftovers. Then the poor in the land were able to come and pick up what had been left behind by the reapers.

We see here that Ruth takes initiative. When she and Naomi arrived back in Bethlehem, it was the time of the harvest, so it was too late to plant their own grain and harvest it. Here they came as two very needy, poor widows—alone in the world, as far as they knew, with no men to provide for them.

Many people in times of need expect others to provide for them: “Somebody is supposed to meet my needs right now.” But it’s interesting that Ruth here, and throughout the rest of the chapter, never claims rights. She realizes she has none. She is a poor Moabite widow. She is willing to take the initiative and to go to work and do what was considered menial and lowly work.

But you never see her whining, complaining, or griping. I know we’re not told the whole story, but I’ve read this story many, many times over the years. And I see here a woman who is at rest, who is at peace, who is willing to work hard—and, I think, a woman who saw work as a privilege.

Work is holy if it’s work that God has given you to do. We don’t glean today. We don’t go out into the fields, most of us, and do this very hard manual labor. But in our homes there is manual labor to be done. That work may be done out of a heart of love. Ruth wasn’t doing this just for herself; she was also caring for her widowed mother-in-law. She was not unwilling to work, but I think probably considered work a privilege.

Work can become an act of worship. There are aspects of my work that I love. Sitting here and having these kinds of sessions—I love doing this. What I don’t love is the back-breaking work that goes into the preparation. That’s the challenging part, sometimes the menial, the difficult, and the strenuous.

I love having a home where I can show hospitality and use that home to minister to others. What I don’t love, truthfully, is what you have to do to make a home presentable for company. I don’t love cleaning and washing dishes and cutting up vegetables and fruit to have people over for a meal. That’s the strenuous part. That’s the part that you don’t get a lot of thanks for. That’s the part that maybe no one else sees.

But I see in Ruth a woman who sees work as a privilege because it’s done for love. It becomes an act of worship and devotion.

She says that she wants to go in the fields behind “anyone in whose eyes I find favor.” Then we read this little phrase: “As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech” (verse 3).

A couple of comments here: First of all, we remember from the first verse of chapter two that Boaz was a wealthy landowner who was a relative of Naomi’s deceased husband. Ruth and Naomi do not realize the significance of that fact at the moment.

So from their standpoint, when Ruth lands on this field of Boaz, this is totally happenstance. The phrase here is “as it turned out.” I think some of your translations say, “She happened to come upon the field of Boaz.” I love the quaint King James here, where it says, “Her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz.” That’s an old-fashioned way of saying that, from her perspective, this was chance.

We know, as those who live under the sovereignty of God, that there is no such thing as chance. There is no such thing as “happening” to come into this field or into a certain circumstance of life. We realize that God controls every circumstance of our lives and that there are no coincidences with Him—that even our apparently chance encounters are within His care.

I try to remember this in the course of my day as interruptions come. I try to be sensitive to the fact that God is orchestrating the encounters of my life. In fact, I can look back over my whole life—40-some years now—and see decisions I made when I had no idea where they would lead, or people I met when I had no idea what influence they would have on my life, or the decisions they would make for me or around me.

I had no idea how God was orchestrating all those pieces to bring together what is still largely mystery to me, because I’m not in His presence yet. But what I now truly trust is not circumstance, not happenstance, but God sovereignly controlling the events of my life.

Verse four tells us, “Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, ‘The LORD be with you!’ ‘The LORD bless you!’ they called back.”

I like this greeting that Boaz gives to his workers. It gives us the first insight into his character. We’ve seen already that he was a wealthy man and that he was a relative of Elimelech. But we haven’t really seen anything of his heart until this point. We’re going to see that he is a man of God. He is a man of wisdom. He’s a man with a heart for God.

I love the way that even in the course of greeting his employees—greeting his workers, his harvesters—he relates God to conversation, to relationships, and to everyday life. This is an illustration of how natural conversation can include conversation about the Lord, about spiritual matters.

It’s amazing to me how many professing believers find it difficult to talk about the Lord. I have to confess, I find that a little difficult to understand. When you have a relationship with Christ that is your life—not just a compartment of your life—then it seems that the overflow of that, in all of life, will be to bring God into the conversation.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful, even in our relationships as believers, when we meet each other, if we were to bring the Lord into the conversation? There’s a wonderful verse in the Old Testament prophets that says that those who loved the Lord spoke often of Him to each other.

That’s the way it ought to be in the family of God—not that we have a compartment that on Sunday mornings we talk about God, but that in all of life we’re relating God to our circumstances and our situations.

It seems to me also that in Boaz’s greeting the harvesters this way—“the LORD be with you . . . the LORD bless you”—that this landowner and his employees are reminding each other of their dependence upon God. The harvest is not something they can take for granted.

Now, verse five: “Boaz asked the foreman of his harvesters, ‘Whose young woman is that?’”

For some reason, this woman had caught his eye. She had not been there before. She was obviously a foreign woman. He noticed her and asked the foreman, “Who is she?”

Verses six and seven: “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 from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.’”

Let me just stop there and point out a couple more characteristics of this woman whose portrait is being painted for us. It seems to me that Ruth was a hard worker. She was a woman who was diligent. She was industrious. We read this about the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31. She’s a woman who works hard.

Ruth went to the field early in the morning. She worked until late in the evening. Verse 17—let me ask you to skip down there: “Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah”—which, by the way, is about 30 pounds in weight. So she got a good harvest that day just working with her hands. But she started early in the morning and worked until late in the evening, with only brief breaks.

I’ve been convicted, as I’ve been studying this passage over the last week, of how important it is as a woman to be a hard worker. I find myself often in my work, in my study, being so distracted and sometimes taking more breaks than I’m doing work. The Lord has used this passage to show me the need for greater diligence and hard work in my own life.

It may be in the cleaning of our homes, or it may be in the raising of children, in the training of your children. In some of those daily hard-work matters, we can let things slip. But we’re not going to have the fruit and the blessing and the great harvest to take back with us if we’ve not been willing to do the work.

Let me put a parenthesis in at this point and say that there’s another quality of Ruth that I think fits well with this one. I find it down in verse 14. Not only was she disciplined in her work, but verse 14 tells us that she was disciplined in her eating habits. This is something else that has spoken to me in a very practical way in this passage. She’s a woman who was self-controlled—which is, as you know, a fruit of the Spirit.

Verse 14 says, “At mealtime Boaz said to her, ‘Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar.’” This sounds sour to us, but it was just a kind of sauce that would have been customary in the Oriental culture. “When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and had some left over.” Another translation says, “She ate and was satisfied, and kept some back” (NKJV).

Here’s a woman who, even in the very practical matters of life, is disciplined. She’s self-controlled. Actually, we could get a lot of insight about eating habits here. I notice that it’s a high-carbohydrate diet, that she sits down to eat, and that she eats at mealtimes. There are some really practical things there.

And we laugh, but as I ask women to turn in prayer requests and prayer cards at our conferences all over the country, one of the most common issues that comes back as a prayer request that women share with me is one that I understand, and that’s this whole area of a bondage to food. Women are saying, “I feel so controlled by food.” For some, it’s eating too much. For some, it’s not eating enough.

By the way, you can’t look at someone’s physical appearance and necessarily know if that’s an area of bondage for them. There are some women who look like rails who have issues with eating and wanting to control their own lives and yet not to surrender to the control of the Holy Spirit.

I don’t know why this is such an issue for us particularly as women. I think it probably goes back to the Garden, Genesis chapter three. But I see here a woman who, although she was young in her faith, was willing to surrender even her eating habits to the control of the Holy Spirit.

Now, I don’t want to over-spiritualize the text here—and I’m really just making some application—but it’s amazing how practical the Word is in applying to our lives. I see a woman who ate until she had enough, and then she stopped eating.

I’ve found myself, as I’ve been studying this passage at mealtimes, asking myself, “Are you eating now because you haven’t had enough, or are you just eating because you like to eat? If you’ve had enough, stop eating.” That’s an expression of control.

You say, “What’s the big deal?” I have found, in my own life, that if I am not allowing the Spirit to control every area of my life—even in those little areas, those daily areas, those areas that aren’t so visible to other people—that I am going to become more vulnerable to lack of control in other, more significant areas.

Let me give you an illustration. I have a life vow before the Lord to be morally pure, to live a life that is pleasing to the Lord in the area of morals. But if I am not willing to let God control my life in the areas of what I eat and how I use my time and how I do my work—if I’m not disciplined in those areas, disciplined by the Spirit of God—then what makes me think that under pressure I will be morally disciplined?

I realize it because the Scripture says that any one of us can be vulnerable to the worst sort of sin and failure and falling. That’s why I believe it’s so important for us to make choices in the little, everyday matters of life, even down to what we eat.

I have to tell you, I hate talking about this because frequently the areas where I really challenge other women and do a lot of teaching are the areas where I find myself most tested. And I’m not looking forward to tests in this area. But I need to say it because I need to live this way. It’s easy for me to be disciplined and for you to be disciplined when we’re all sitting in this room with each other and encouraged by each other. But it’s another thing when we’re home, we’re alone, it’s late at night, we’re tired, we’re lonely, we’re sad.

Someone has said, “When you’re hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, halt.” That’s when you’re likely to be more vulnerable. And Ruth certainly had reason to be vulnerable in terms of her own emotions and circumstances of her life. But we find here a woman who is not under the control of her own ways of thinking and her own emotions, but under the control of the Spirit of God. Ultimately, that makes a beautiful, attractive woman.

Leslie: Are you allowing the Spirit of God to make you into that kind of woman? During this series on the book of Ruth, Nancy Leigh DeMoss is explaining the qualities that made this young woman so remarkable. Nancy will be right back to pray.

As you can tell from today’s program, the book of Ruth offers rich insights for any woman who will take the time to get into this meaningful story. Would you consider learning more about this story and sharing your insights with other women? Put a small group together to study the book of Ruth. Nancy has written a workbook that will guide you through the study. When you order at least five books, we’ll include Nancy’s teaching on Ruth on DVD.

Imagine meeting weekly with a group of women, watching Nancy’s teaching, and discussing this deep, biblical story together. Find out more by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com. Of course, you can order the workbook, DVDs, audio CDs, or one MP3 CD of this radio series. All of them come separately to fit the needs of your study group, even if you have a group of one.

Visit ReviveOurHearts.com to order or get more information, or you can call 1-800-569-5959.

Are there any differences between men and women? The book of Ruth speaks to that question. I hope you’ll be back to hear that discussion. Now Nancy’s back to pray with us.

Nancy: Father, thank You for how practical Your Word is in areas of everyday life. I pray that you would help me and help us to be your women, even in these very nitty-gritty issues of how we do our work, how we use our time, and how we eat.

Your Word says that whether we eat or drink or whatever we do, we are to do everything to Your glory. And so, Lord, may we not just be hearers of the Word, but may we be doers as well.

I pray that the things we’ve said would not put people under the bondage of trying to perform, trying to live this out in our strength. May we surrender ourselves to the control of Your Spirit, and as we go from this place, may we be sensitive to what You are saying to us. May we trust in You to give us the power to be women of God in these areas of discipline. I pray, for Jesus’ sake, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

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