Bitter to Better – Ruth 2:15-23

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. 


It is a new month, and there are many new things on the horizon for The Alpine Chapel. I’ll share some of those in a bit, but for now, let’s pick up where we left off last time in our verse-by-verse, in-depth study through the Old Testament Book of Ruth…

(Ruth 2:15-16) 15 And when she rose up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. 16 Also let grain from the bundles fall purposely for her; leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.” 

Basically, Boaz is saying to his workers, “Make sure Ruth gets all that she needs… as you are working, purposefully leave some of the good stuff on the ground for her to pick up. This way all of her needs will be met.” This is Grace. Grace has been called, “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense”.

These workers could have responded to Boaz, “Hey… that’s not fair! We’re having to work hard for what we get… and it’s our job! But you’re letting this woman have it easy, she just is able to pick up what we’ve already worked to pull out of the ground!”But that’s what grace is. It is receiving something that you didn’t deserve, couldn’t earn, and would never have gotten otherwise. Boaz is showing Ruth grace… as does Jesus to us. Grace is “God’s Riches At Christ’sExpense”… He paid the price, and we benefited big time.

(Ruth 2:17-19a) 17 So she gleaned in the field until evening, and beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. 18 Then she took it up and went into the city, and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. So she brought out and gave to her what she had kept back after she had been satisfied. 19 And her mother-in-law said to her, “Where have you gleaned today? And where did you work?…

I read this week that Christians use to greet each other this way: “Where have you gleaned today?”What if we still did that? Can you imagine? Talk about openness and accountability!

Unfortunately, I find it way too easy to describe the latest TV show I’ve watched, or movie I’ve seen, or sports game I’ve attended… than I do to describe the latest spiritual insight I’ve received from God’s Word. What we tend to talk about most, can identify where we’ve been gleaning. This is one of the reasons doing what we are doing now… diving into God’s Word… is so very important.


In-N-Out example: Driving through Utah, I filled up on Burger King… and wasn’t hungry for a Double-Double from In-N-Out… something I was desperately hungry for!

All too often we’ve been feasting on the stuff that doesn’t satisfy, and we find we’ve lost appetite for the stuff that does.

(Ruth 2:19b-20) …Blessed be the one who took notice of you.” So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked, and said, “The man’s name with whom I worked today is Boaz.”

20 Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “Blessed be he of the Lord, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!” And Naomi said to her, “This man is a relation of ours, one of our close relatives.”

Check out the drastic change we see here in Naomi. Pretty cool when you think of where we first started out with her. Remember? In chapter one, verse 20: “…Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.”Back in that study we talked about how the Hebrew word ‘mara’ is literally “bitter”. Naomi was so hurt, in the midst of her grieving, that she wanted people around her to actually call her, “bitter”.

Now, however, is the first time we see her coming out of that bitterness. Now, she is blessing the Lord again. Instead of blaming the Lord, she’s blessing the Lord. What caused the change?What took her from being “bitter”…to“better”?

Notice a few things: First, Naomi blessed Boaz for what he had done; “took notice of you”… and for who he was; “This man is a relation of ours, one of our close relatives”. Then Naomi blessed the Lord, “who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!

This is huge! She blessed Boaz for what he had done, and for who he was. These are the two things that we too should bless the Lord for! We worship/thank/bless Him for all that He’s done for us personally… and we worship/thank/bless Him for all that He is too us.

Whenever we feel like it’s hard to worship and bless the Lord… a good thing to do is to remember those two things. Take a second and meditate on Who He is (all the nameson the bookmark) and then take a moment to meditate on what He’s done.

I suggest to you that it’s hard to remain bitter… about ANYTHING… when we truly stop and consider all that God has already done for us. Listen… there are a lot of things I have prayed over the years, wishing that God would ‘do’ for me. But the truth is… if God never did one other thing for me… He has already done more than enough by giving me His life on the Cross.

In the second Book of the Bible, the Book of Exodus there is neat story that shows us how to deal with the bitter things that happen in this life:


22 So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea; then they went out into the Wilderness of Shur. And they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. 23 Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah.24 And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25 So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet.

God had done so many wonderful things for these people – delivered them from slavery, helped them escape the Egyptians (bad guys) by splitting the Red Sea and taking care of them. Now, however, they are thirsty. They begin to complain… and whine. It’s almost as if they have forgotten all that God has done for them.

We do that, right? No matter how good God has been, when we face a hardship… a trial…we tend to forget… to complain… act as if God has forgotten us… like He doesn’t care about us or for us.

So, all the people come to this lake. It’s looks awesome at first, but then when they try and drink it… it’s too bitter! They called it “Marah”, because “marah” means “bitter” in their Hebrew language. They’re stuck. They’re thirsty. They’re at the end of their rope… or so they think.

Their leader, a guy named Moses, cries out to God and the Bible says, “and the Lord showed him a tree…When he cast itinto the waters, the waters were made sweet.

Moses saw how desperate these people were, he knew they needed to drink, yet would be unable to, due to the bitterness of the only water around. So, he prays to the Lord, and the Lord “showed him a tree”. Moses cuts it down and tosses it into the bitter water and in a split second… the water loses all bitterness and becomes sweet!

Approximately1,476years later… there would be another Tree. We know it as the Crossof Jesus Christ. The New Testament Books of Galatians(chapter 3) and 1 Peter (2:24) talk of the Cross and refer to it as “the tree”. It is the Cross of Calvary… the Cross that Jesus died upon… which still transforms biter experiences, bitter people, and bitter circumstances.

How?By realizing that the wrongs done to us, the offenses against us, the disappo0intments registered by ushave allbeen paidfor, dealtwith, washed cleanby the blood of Calvary.

In our text, we see Naomi begin her transformation from “Bitter” to “Better”, because she goes from blaming the Lord, to blessing the Lord – to recognizing WHO BOAZ IS… and WHAT HE HAS DONE.

Please hear me carefully today: So too… if you and I are struggling with the hurts of this life causing bitterness to be rooted deep within us – the key for us is the same. We too, must stop and recognize, not only WHO GOD IS… but exactly WHAT HE HAS DONE. We must, in a sense, toss in the TREE – Remember God’s greatest gift – Jesus’ life on the Cross. As we do… we will watch the waters of our bitterness be miraculously transformed into the sweetness of praise.

We could stop here, but I want us to see one last lesson in our text… let’s read on and finish this chapter…

21 Ruth the Moabitess said, “He also said to me, ‘You shall stay close by my young menuntil they have finished all my harvest.’”

Okay… so this is odd. Ruth is referred to here specifically as, “the Moabitess”. Why?

I think it might be because she is showing a bit of her ‘Moabitish’ tendencies here. She quotes Boaz and tells Naomi that he specifically told her; “You shall stay close by my young menuntil they have finished all my harvest”… but go back and read verse 8,… what did Boaz ACTUALLY say? “…Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women”. Boaz didn’t tell Ruth to hang out with the young men, he said to hang out with the young women. Ruth twisted what he had told her.

Do we ever do that? Has God ever spoken something clearly to you that you either mis-heard, or flat out changed to better fit what you were more comfortable with? I wonder if this is what is happening here with Ruth? If it is… notice Naomi’s reaction

22 And Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, and that people do not meet you in any other field.” 23 So she stayed close by the young women of Boaz, to glean until the end of barley harvest and wheat harvest; and she dwelt with her mother-in-law.

Here Naomi reiterates exactly what Boaz ACTUALLY said. “Stay by the young women, Ruth, that’s what’s best for you!” And then we’re told in verse 23 that Ruth did exactly what Naomi andBoaz bothadmonished her to do.

Listen, Ruth was young… not only age-wise, but young in her walk with the one, true God. Boaz was a much older man, and Naomi was a much older woman. Both of them older in age, but also they both had known of, and walked with, the one, true God all their lives. In other words… The older, more mature ones are speaking into the lifeof the younger, less mature Ruth. This is awesome… and it is so needed today. The Body of Christ… the Church… is made up of mature believers – those who’ve walked with the Lord for many, many years. And the Body of Christ is made up of fairly new believers – those who are brand spanking new to this entire way of life.

New believers are in desperate need of someone with some maturity to lovingly, and with much care, speak into their lives! It’s easy for a new believer to get things twisted. It’s easy to misinterpret what the Master has said. In those times, the mature brother or sister must come alongside, and “tell the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).


Today, I know that I’m speaking to many who have surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ. You’ve been amazed at how He has changed your life. You’ve ‘tossed in the Cross’ and He has miraculously changed the bitter to so much better! Praise the Lord!

However, that’s not the end of the story for you. Finding salvation is wonderful. Being saved from our sins is incredible. But the Lord is not finished with you and me yet. He has plans for us. He wants to use us… in the lives of many others who He will bring along our path. Those who are mixed up and have misinterpreted Him. We must be those who speak out… and speak up… and lovingly correct.

Where are the spiritually mature?

Where are the spiritual mothers and fathers, who will come alongside the next generation?

Pareto Principlesays that 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people in any organization. That often is the case in most churches too. Here at The Alpine Chapel we are wanting to turn that statistic on its head. It is time for all those who are mature to step out… and step up… and begin to do something.

READ:Ephesians 4:11-15

equipping of the saints for the work of ministry” – This is my job as a pastor. So, starting this month, and every month from now on, there will be more opportunities to ‘equip’ our folks for this awesome work of ministry.

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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