Meaningful Memorial Day – Ruth 2:5-14

The following is a sermon I preached at The Alpine Chapel in Telluride, Colorado, as part of a thru-the-Bible teaching on the Book of Ruth. 

INTRODUCTION:

It’s Memorial Day weekend. Originally known as ‘Decoration Day’, the holiday was established on May 5th, 1868 by the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans. Envisioned as an opportunity for the nation to decorate the graves of the Civil War dead, General John Login declared May 30thas the official date of commemoration because by that time, flowers would be in bloom all across the country.

Ceremonies were first held at Arlington National Cemetery with children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan home placing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, all the while reciting prayers and singing hymns.

[The Origins of Memorial Day, Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Public Affairs. See: www.1.va.gov/pubaff/mday/mdayorig.htm]

History has a way of sanitizing even the most brutal of circumstances, but can you imagine the pain and sorrow that must have been represented on the green fields of Arlington that first Memorial Day morning? I close my eyes and I can see a little girl of just five or six, a yellow ribbon in her hair, placing a rose beside a granite marker of her father – a man she never knew. He fell at Shiloh, or Vicksburg. I also see a boy of maybe 10, dressed in his Sunday best, who is kneeling in the shadow of a towering oak tree. He is now old enough to read the markings on his daddy’s grave and mature enough to remember him, too. This is now the final resting place of his father who left with the other idealistic young men who marched off to fight in our nation’s bloodiest war. Six hundred thousand of them never came back, and many of those who survived were horribly disfigured and disabled.

The prosperity that we enjoy today has been purchased with their blood, sweat, and tears… and we cannot, we must not, forget the sacrifices in the Civil War and on a thousand other battlefields around the world since then. Perhaps we can draw new inspiration from the words of Abraham Lincoln, spoken in a Gettysburg ceremony where so many brave men had recently died:

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave us the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

This Memorial Day weekend we pray that American military personnel currently deployed in Pakistan, Yemen, South Korea, and Somalia – and those also in Iraq and Afghanistan… and other places around the world… will be able to help bring about this ‘new birth of freedom’ of which Lincoln spoke on behalf of those who are oppressed, exploited, and imprisoned. We also pray that the terrorism that arises within our own beloved country upon innocent people in schools and churches would cease… and for the brave police officers, fire fighters, and other emergency responders. Our world is broken… in desperate need of Jesus. But, this weekend is so much more than just a 3-Day-Weekend. It’s a day when we honor those who shed their blood that we might live in freedom. It’s a day when we remember those that gave their lives that we might enjoy liberty.

This being Memorial Day weekend, I want us, as a church family, to consider another One, Who shed His blood that we might have liberty. Let’s think about One, Who gave His life that we might live eternally and in freedom presently. I want us to consider Jesus Christ and how we might honor Him. You see, Monday across the country there will be parades honoring the soldiers who died on the battlefield so bravely. There will be speeches orated, and various monuments concerning those who gave their lives sacrificially. Jesus, though, our King, is the greatest soldier of all. He single-handedly stormed the gates of Hell… single-handedly gained the victory and gave His life sacrificially. It’s an amazing thing that He did for us.

How do we honor Him? Do we, like they are going to do on Monday, march in a parade to show our pride and love for Jesus? Or… do we erect a monument in His honor? Jesus, interestingly enough, didn’t ask us to march publicly in a parade in honor of Him. That’s not really His style. In fact, we are told that He “wouldn’t be heard in the streets” (Matthew 12:19). Jesus moved with such humility… such quietness… that when it came time to betray Him, He had to be ‘kissed’ and identified as ‘the Man’, because people were still unfamiliar with Him. It didn’t seem that Jesus was really into parades. He wasn’t interested in monuments or even buildings being set up for His honor either. Remember He said, ‘Not one stone will be set on another’– speaking of the Temple. “This place is going to be totally obliterated… not standing at all!”And if you know your history, you know that the Temple, sure enough, was totally torn down in the year 70 A.D.

So, if Jesus isn’t into parades, monuments, or buildings… what does He want from us? How are we supposed to remember His death? How are we supposed to memorialize Him? Believe it or not, the Bible comes right out and tells us… pretty plainly:

1 Corinthians 11:23-24 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said,“Take, eat; this is My body which isbroken for you; do this in remembranceof Me.

Or a ‘memorial for Me’. “This is what I want you to do… not parades, buildings, or monuments. Just take and eat and do THIS in remembrance of Me.”

Today, we’ll be sharing the communion meal together… but before we do… let’s continue in Ruth, chapter 2… and pick up where we left off last time… verse 5…

(Ruth 2:5-7)5 Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?”So the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered and said, “It is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. And she said, ‘Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.’ So she came and has continued from morning until now, though she rested a little in the house.”

Here we are introduced to this unnamed servant. Who is this guy?He reminds me of the other unnamed servant, we spoke of a few weeks ago, who Abram sent to find a wife for his son. The story is found in Genesis 24, and the servant found Rebekah for Isaac.

These unnamed servants are awesome pictures to you and me of the Holy Spirit. The One who seeks a bride for Jesus; the One who moves in secrecy, never speaking of Himself, always pointing to Jesus – the One who drew youand me into a relationship with Jesus.

(Ruth 2:8) Then Boaz said to Ruth, “You will listen, my daughter, will you not? Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women. 

This is what our ‘Greater-than-Boaz’, Jesus Christ still says to us today: “Don’t go to some other field to find your sustenance. Stay in MY field. Don’t go elsewhere to find some deeper theological truth, or some exciting new mysterious, esoteric experience, some new slant on doctrine. Stay in the field of redemption… the field of God’s Word.”

(Ruth 2:9)Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Have I not commanded the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.”

I love this! She doesn’t even have to find her own water. Boaz is totally looking out for her! He’s protecting her from the advances of the young men, and he’s providing water to quench her thirst. Sounds a lot like what our Greater-than-Boaz, Jesus Christ also does for us.

When we choose to walk after God, stay in His field, find our sustenance in Him alone… He has got our backs. Jesus told the woman at the well that He could give her water that would foreverquench her thirst,…

and then He stood up in the synagogue, in John 7:37-38and cried out,

If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.

Jesus in the last day of the great feast of Tabernacles, when no water would be brought from the Pool of Siloam [tell story – Psalm 118:25 “Save now, I pray, O Lord; O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity.”], cried out in reference to their emptiness and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Again, the Holy Spirit… like the unnamed servant… draws the bride to the BrideGroom… into relationship with Jesus – where ALL OUR NEEDS ARE MET! Only Jesus can protect us and satisfy the deepest thirst of our souls!

(Ruth 2:10-12)10 So she fell on her face, bowed down 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?” 11 And Boaz answered and said to her, “It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. 12 The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.”

 Notice Ruth’s response to the grace that is being shown to her. She falls on her face. She bowed down to the ground. She calls herself a ‘foreigner’, but we know she’s more than that! She’s a Moabitess! God had cursed the Moabites and proclaimed they could not come near the tabernacle for ten generations (Deuteronomy 23:3). This meant that if your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother had Moabite blood in her, you could not come into the Sanctuary, even though you were an Israelite. Indeed the Moabites were a cursed people – and Ruth knew it. That is why she was blown away by Boaz. The “big man in Bethlehem” was so good to her. “Why have I– a Moabitess – found grace?”she asked.

That’s exactly how I feel. How could it be that I have found grace in God’s sight? When I realize that I could do nothing! I had absolutely nothing to do with my salvation. The Holy Spirit drew me, and Jesus filled me… I causes me to be blown away too!

I also love how Boaz basically says, “Hey, Ruth… I know you. I know all about you.”

I think of Nathanael – When Philip came to him in John 1, saying he had found the Messiah, Nathanael sarcastically said, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?

Come and see,” Philip said.

When Jesus later saw Nathanael coming, He said, “Behold an Israelite in whom there is not guile – one who is not easily tricked.

I love that! Jesus could have condemned Nathanael for his sarcasm and unbelief, instead, he commended him for his caution.

How do you know me?” asked Nathanael.

Before Philip came to you, I saw you sitting under the fig tree,” Jesus answered (John 1:48).

The Lord sees us. The Lord knows us. And the Lord has chosen to show grace to us. I don’t understand it. I know I don’t deserve it. But I am so grateful for it.

This is the Good News!The Lord does not condemn you. He commends you. He doesn’t focus on your sin. He hears your sigh. He hears your heart saying, “I want more of You, Lord. Even though I am a Moabite, even though I have problems, I want to be right in your sight.”

And He responds with grace.

(Ruth 2:13-14)13 Then she said, ‘Let me find favor in your sight, my lord; for you have comforted me, and have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants.’ 14 Now Boaz said to her at mealtime, ‘Come here, and eat of the bread, and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar.’ So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed parched grain to her; and she ate and was satisfied, and kept some back.

And here we have another beautiful picture for us. Boaz invites Ruth to share a meal with him… eat of the bread and dip it into the vinegar. The word there for ‘vinegar’ is the Hebrew word, “homes” and is translated literally, “wine vinegar”.

It is the word used in Psalm 69:21

They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegarto drink.

Other translations translate this word as “sour wine” (NLT, ESV).

This, obviously, is a Messianic prophecy… because when Jesus hung on the Cross we read,

“Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth.”(John 19:29).

CONCLUSION:

This is Memorial Day weekend…

1 Corinthians 11:23-24 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said,“Take, eat; this is My body which isbroken for you; do this in remembranceof Me.

Remember this is also a ‘memorial for Me’. “This is what I want you to do… not parades, buildings, or monuments. Just take and eat and do THIS in remembrance of Me.”

Today, we don’t only remember the death and the sacrifice of the ONE who purchased our freedom… we also remember the AMAZING GRACE He has shown us… Moabites… who didn’t deserve it.

Let’s pray…

 

[*I use The New King James Version, and most quotes from the Bible will be from NKJV, unless otherwise noted. Also, I use various books and commentaries when preparing a message. I have NOT given credit in each instance, but will say that I do not use on-line commentaries such as Blue-Letter Bible, or other on-line sources. I use the following on a pretty regular basis, because I own them: The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, Jewish New Testament Commentary, The Complete Biblical Library (NIV), Skip Heitzig’s ‘The Bible From 30,000 Feet’, William MacDonald’s ‘Believer’s Bible Commentary’, Matthew Henry’s ‘A Commentary On The Whole Bible’, Jon Courson’s ‘Application Commentary’, Holman’s Study Bible, The Archeological Study Bible, ESV Study Bible, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, William Barclay’s Commentaries ‘The Daily Bible Series’. I think that’s about it.]

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