At the high point of the Kingdom of Israel in the Old Testament, King Solomon, the wisest and richest King ever to walk the earth, completed the construction of the temple of the LORD. The ark which signified God’s presence was brought into the temple and the priests walked out of the temple playing musical instruments and singing to the LORD, 'He is good; his love endures forever' (2 Chronicles 5:13). At this moment the cloud of God’s glory rushed upon the temple, such that no-one could continue performing their duties. It was a powerful moment of experiencing the goodness of the LORD to his people.
Yet, for many people today, their experience of God is not that ‘He is good’. They look at the world and the experiences they have been through, and they question, ‘Where is a good God in all this mess?’ Why is it that people’s experiences of God are so varied?
The same dynamic seems to be present when it comes to people’s experiences of God’s power. One person is skeptical that God exists, while another is persuaded that God is real and that we should all follow His Son Jesus Christ. One person has experiences of God’s power, while another questions whether that is even possible today. What accounts for the different perceptions of God’s power today? Certainly there are different personalities and different life callings, but is that all that’s going on?
When I was a teenager, I was at my Pop’s place (my Dad’s Dad), and my Grandad on the other side was present as well. On this particular day my Pop described different experiences in his life (as he loved to do), but then he summed it up using a soccer analogy by saying, ‘in my life, the ball was at my feet, and I kicked it.’ My Grandad who was standing and listening made the very honest comment, ‘the ball was at my feet, and I didn’t kick it.' Now I think that my Grandad was being a bit down on himself, but I did find it an interesting contrast, hearing the two men reflect on their life. One man had opportunities and kicked the ball. Another recognised that he also had opportunities, but he didn’t kick the ball. Why did they make the different decisions they did? How might we make sure we kick the ball, when the key opportunities of life present themselves?
Reaping Feels Risky
In Ruth 3 we see that Boaz, a man of faith, had the opportunity to reap a harvest. Not just the physical harvest of Barley which he was enjoying, but the harvest of increased land and even more importantly, a wife! But in Ruth 4 we find out that there is one before Boaz who stands in line to reap. There is someone else who is presented with this assignment before Boaz gets a shot at it. So in the security provided by living in a society where elders stand as father’s in the city, Boaz gathers the man who is more closely related to Ruth and Naomi, and has a conversation.
‘Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our relative Elimelek. I thought I should bring the matter to your attention and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, do so. But if you will not, tell me, so I will know. For no one has the right to do it except you, and I am next in line.’ Ruth 4:3-4
The man initially snaps up the offer. ‘I will redeem it’ (Ruth 4:4), he says. There is a reward that comes from reaping a harvest and initially Boaz’s family member sees that rewards and is very happy to take hold of the opportunity. Yet he misses the fact that there will also be a responsibility he will carry.
‘On the day you buy the land from Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.’ Ruth 4:5
Hearing about this responsibility the family member rejects the opportunity, noting that ‘I might endanger my own estate’ (Ruth 4:6). We take it this man wasn’t married (he doesn’t have a wife or children mentioned). But it would seem that because Ruth is a Moabite by origin, he considers there to be too high of a risk in this proposal. Maybe he’s concerned that he will be looked down upon in business deals because of his connection to a Moabite. Maybe he’s concerned about the impact it would have on his children, if they were to have a Moabite mother. Maybe he’s concerned that he might in some way be ostracised by his tribe. We don’t exactly know. But we do know that because of the risk of reaping the harvest presented to him, he rejects the offer and lets the opportunity pass him by.
Sometimes in the same way, because of the risks, the ambiguity and the responsibility associated with opportunities we’re presented with, we can pass them up. Even though we were the first in line to receive the benefits that God was offering us.
Reaping Feels Risky Unless You’re Used To Sowing
In the book of Ruth, Boaz stands in stark contrast to his family member who stood first in line to take hold of the opportunity being offered. Boaz has shown himself as a man who is willing to sow liberally of the things God blesses him with. Initially we saw him sowing seed to the poor widow Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi beyond the bare requirement of the law (Ruth 2:15-16), then we saw him continuing to sow liberally of the blessings he’d received in the second half of Ruth 3. This way of living in accord with God’s intentions, puts him in a position of being more than willing to accept both the responsibility, along with the reward, of receiving Naomi’s land and receiving Ruth’s hand in marriage.
At the end of Ruth 4, we get to see in brief the implications of Boaz’s continued choices to sow. Firstly, his new wife is blessed by the elders at the gate and the people. The blessing is interesting, because it incorporates two other groups of women who stood in Boaz’s family line, who had complicated life situations, yet the LORD had blessed the ‘sowing of seed’ that had happened down through their generations.
Rachel and Leah found themselves as wives competing for the attention of their one husband Jacob, later renamed Israel. Yet, as seed had been sown, they were blessed as mother’s to the great nation of Israel. Later, Israel’s firstborn Judah, had cheated his daughter-in-law Tamar out of descendants, but the LORD had made a way for Tamar to be the mother of Perez, who in turn became the father of the clan that Boaz was from.
But then Boaz continues to ‘sow seed’ with Ruth as was his responsibility, and they are blessed by the LORD a Son (Ruth 4:13). Fast-forwarding down the generational lines we are told that Boaz’s son Obed becomes the Father of Jesse, who in turn in is the Father of King David, one of the greatest figures of the Old Testament.
The point is we need to make a quality choice to sow liberally, letting the life and blessing that God gives to go out from our hands. We make the choice to sow liberally, lest our opportunities and assignments in life pass to another.
Reaping Feels Risky Unless You’re Used To A God Who Sows
Of course as we sow in life - our resources, our life, our energy, to have children, to grow crops, to bless others - we do so knowing that God sowed first. Not only did God sow the first man Adam and then from Adam took his wife Eve, but ultimately through the sowing of seed through the generations, God sowed His own precious Son. The family tree that runs from Israel, through Perez, Boaz and to King David (see Ruth 4:18-22), continues on till Joseph takes the risk to marry Mary who is already carrying a child. The child’s name is Jesus, who is called to be the Messiah (Matthew 1:16), and is also God with us (Matthew 1:23). Through humanity with all our faults and failings, God takes a risk and comes into this world, to die and bring forgiveness.
So the more we step into the opportunities and assignments that God puts before us, the more we can appreciate the risk that God took in giving everything he had to redeem us to himself. In the end, there is no great risk for us, because God has shown he’s willing to risk it all for the sake of bringing us to himself. Praise God!
About the Author
Jai Wright is a Christian Minister, who founded and leads MAKE Church in Mackay, Qld. He recently published the book, Life Plugged In: Connecting with the Source of Peace, Power and Purpose.
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