“Wait For The Lord”               Ruth 3:15-18                   September 21, 2008

 

SI:  We’re studying the book of Ruth.

It’s a story of how God takes his people from tears to rejoicing.

 

We’re in chapter three which some have called the waiting chapter.

   Actually, the waiting comes at the very end for the chapter,

   when Boaz promises to do all he can to fulfill the role of redeemer for Ruth.

 

And at this point, everything is out of Naomi and Ruth’s hands—

   and they just have to wait—wait for Boaz to do what he has said he will do.


 

INTRO:  When Allison and I were first married there was a very busy

   intersection that we had to drive through several times a day—

   it was the intersection of Commercial Blvd and US 1 in Ft. Lauderdale.

If you missed the green light and got caught at the beginning of the red light

   it took so long for all of the different lights and turning arrows to function through

   that we had a name for it.  We called it “The Longest Wait.”

When that happened to us we would turn to each other and say: The Longest Wait!

 

Every day of our lives we wait for things big and small.

   Sometimes we wait for minutes—sometimes for years.

   Sometimes we barely notice waiting—sometimes waiting is very painful.

Everybody waits, but for Christians, waiting is redeemed.

   It’s changed into something through our union with Christ

   that the Bible calls waiting for the Lord.  

 

In our reading today Naomi says to Ruth—It’s time to wait.

   Wait and see how Boaz will work this out.

Are we reading too much into this passage to say that Naomi and Ruth

   were learning to wait for the Lord? 

   I don’t think so, and here’s why. 

 

Ruth is about God moving his people from tears to rejoicing through a redeemer.

Boaz is the kinsman redeemer who will marry Ruth at great cost to himself,

   and have a son with her, and restore fortunes and family line of Naomi. 

Boaz foreshadows Jesus Christ, our kinsman redeemer,

   who at cost to himself restored our fortunes

   and brought us into the family of God. 

 

At this key part of the story, Ruth and Naomi have thrown themselves

   on the goodness and faithfulness of Boaz as their only hope—

   they now have to wait and see him work things out.

I think Ruth and Naomi’s response to Boaz is intended to give us a picture

   of our faith in Jesus Christ. 

   And that’s what waiting for the Lord is—it’s another way to describe faith.

 

Maybe you are going through a waiting time in your life.

   You are waiting for a problem in a relationship to be resolved,

   or a family matter, or a health matter, or a business or financial matter,

   or an emotional matter.

Waiting is a part of life.  Everybody has to wait—but the question is—

   How are you waiting?

 

A Christian doesn’t wait like a pagan—he waits for the Lord.

He has faith in God the Father and faith in Jesus Christ,

   to work things out for the best.

And that bears fruit in your life and it’s one of the ways

   God moves you from tears to rejoicing.

 

I was surprised in my study this week to see how often waiting for the Lord

   is mentioned in the Bible—it’s mentioned many, many times.

   I was surprised to see the rich vocabulary and images used to describe waiting.

 

The place where waiting for the Lord is mentioned most in the Bible

   is in the Psalms.  I want us to look at some of those passages as well as Ruth.

We’ll work our way through this subject by answering three questions.

 

1.  Why does the Lord make you wait for him?

2.  What are you waiting for him to do?

3.  How do you keep waiting?


 

MP#1  Why does the Lord make you wait for him?

He makes you wait for him because he’s doing something in you.

   He could do things right away, but there are things he wants to grow in you first.

 

After all of Naomi’s planning and pushing—as we saw last week—

   her unwise planning and pushing—she now seems to relax.

Says to Ruth, wait, be still, I’m sure Boaz is going to work this out.

   You see her trusting him, and content for the first time to be where she is.

 

That’s a picture of what waiting for the Lord does for us—

   it teaches us trust and contentment.  It makes us better people, it sanctifies us.

The Bible uses a rich vocabulary to express waiting for the Lord.

   Sometimes describes it as hoping for the Lord, looking for the Lord.

   Sometimes describes it as being still or quiet

 

There is a Psalm of David that expresses this so well, Psalm 131.

   “But I have stilled and quieted my soul;

   like a weaned child with its mother,

   like a weaned child is my soul within me.

   O Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore.”

 

This is such a great picture.  First, think of a nursing infant.

   If a nursing infant is hungry, it can’t sit still and quiet if its mother is holding it.

   Because she smells like food.

It weeps, screams, gets worked up into a frenzy.

   Sometimes even when the mother puts her breast in its mouth

   it keeps thrashing and crying because it’s not getting filled up fast enough.

 

Now picture a weaned child.

Child says, Mamma, I’m hungry.

   She says:  Supper’s in the oven, we’ll be eating when dad gets home.

   Come over here and sit on the couch with me,

 

And the child comes over, and sits with mamma, and he waits.

   And even though he is still hungry, he trusts her.

   Even though he doesn’t get what he wants from her right away,

   he knows she will feed him, and he’s glad to sit with her—he’s content.

 

David says, that’s where I am spiritually. 

I’ve moved from that screaming, thrashing infant who just wants God

   to give me what I want when I want it, to a little child who can sit quietly

   with God and trust him to give me what I need when I need it.

In other words, waiting for the Lord has taught him trust and contentment.

 

Over the course of your life, Lord, in various ways teaches you to wait for him.

   He takes away things, or he doesn’t give you things you really want.

Sometimes he arranges things so that it looks like you are never

   going to get these things that you want so badly.

 

Lord does this, not because He is cruel, but because He loves you. 

   Knows that without times of waiting, you will never experience

   true contentment—quiet and still soul.

Lord’s exact method is different for every Christian.

   But weaning is hard.  There may be lots of tears, even frustration.

 

What you have to see, as you experience waiting times and dreams deferred,

   are not signs of God’s hatred or His indifference, his love.

When a mother weans a child, she refuses to give him her breast,

   but she never refuses to give him herself.

 

We have some friends and for the past three years their son has had debilitating

   headaches that even the strongest painkillers cannot relieve.

They’ve been to the best doctors in New York and Chicago, there has been some

   help medically but lots of frustrations.  They send periodic emails to all friends.

   The medical side is heartbreaking, but the spiritual side is amazing.

Because what has come from this time is a deep trust in God.

   Not content with their son’s situation, but fully content in knowing

   that he is in the hands of his heavenly father. 

 

What are you waiting for right now?  Is there a big unsettled issue in life?

   Is their something you really want and clock is ticking? 

   Don’t fight Lord’s timing—he’s growing you up—he’s weaning you.

   He’s making you more mature.  Cooperate with him.

Still and quiet your soul before him.

 

Brings us to next question.

MP#2  What are you waiting for him to do?

You are waiting for him to keep his word.

 

Boaz had said to Ruth:  I will redeem you.

   I will marry you, restore the family name and family lands.

   There was a hitch in the plan that had to be dealt with—another male relative,

   closer to Ruth than Boaz.  But Boaz said, one way or another, I’ll see to it—

   you will be redeemed. 

So Ruth and Naomi waited for Boaz to keep his word.

 

Waiting for the Lord is not looking for God to do what you have planned—

   its looking for him to do what he has said he will do. 

I read a popular Christian book a few years ago that was on the best seller list.

   It said, visualize exactly what you want.

If you want to be the number one salesman in your company—visualize that.

   Visualize those sales charts—and then pray that, claim that, and if you have

   faith, God will give it to you.

 

That’s not it.  God gives you promises in the Bible. 

   That’s his word to you.  He keep his word.

   Works it out in your life in his own way.

   That may not look like what you have visualized.

Ruth and Naomi waited for Boaz to work things out his way.

   Waiting for the Lord is waiting for him to keep his promises to you.

 

I know someone who waited for the Lord through some money problems with

   this promise:  “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious

   riches in Christ Jesus.”  God met his needs all through the waiting time

   and brought him out the other side.  Did so in his way.

 

I’ve mentioned before a Christian man I knew who was slandered.

   Some people said, you need to do this, or do that to clear your name.

   And there were a lot of things he wished would happen right away.

He held on to God’s promises, I will vindicate you. 

   He held on to the example of the life of Joseph, how he was vindicated.

   After five years of waiting, promise fulfilled, in a way that he did not expect. 

 

No matter what you are waiting for, there are promises in the Bible—

   promises of healing, of provision, of comfort, of peace—find them. 

Psalm 130 says:

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.

My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning,

   more than watchmen wait for the morning.

 

I worked as a night watchman in college.

First job was working for the college itself and it was fun, it was easy.

   The guard shack was cozy and students would stop by and talk, drink coffee.

   Our patrol car was an old pickup with AM radio, late at night,

   high on Lookout Mountain, get stations in Chicago, St. Louis.

Then I got a grownup night watchman job in gated community.

   Just me, all alone, had to patrol once an hour with watchman’s clock.

   The hours crawled past.  And I longed for morning. 

 

A watchman can’t make the morning come any sooner.

You can’t make things work out any sooner than God has planned to work out.

   If you’ve torn things down, can’t be built up any sooner than God has planned.

   If other people have torn down, can’t build up any sooner that God planned.

 

And waiting can be like a night of darkness. 

   When things are unsettled and unclear in your life,

   when issues are unresolved, illnesses are uncured,

   you can get worried or sad or even angry. 

 

But it doesn’t have to be that way—you can find promises of God

   that speak to your situation—hold on to them, wait for the morning to come.

You can’t make it come any faster—but it will come.

 

No matter what you are going through, at the God-ordained time,

   morning will come in your life. 

   The eastern sky will start to glow and darkness will be pushed away.

The great promise that all God’s promises rest in is the promise of Christ’s return.

   Dawn will break on the last day, and Jesus will set all things right.

   Until that time, he sends little dawns into your life, just when you need him.


 

MP#3  How do you keep waiting?

At least eight times the Psalms talk about waiting for the Lord.

   Sometimes it’s a command—Wait for the Lord.

   Sometimes it’s an affirmation of faith—I will wait for the Lord.

   Sometimes it’s a testimony—I waited for the Lord and he did this . . .

 

You know what else you find in the Psalms about eight times as well?

   “How long, O Lord?”

   How long, O Lord, till you answer me, till you give me relief from suffering,

   till you deliver me from my enemies.  How long, O Lord?

 

The very Psalm writers who talk about waiting for the Lord,

   also cry out, how long, O Lord. 

It’s easy for discouragement to set in when you are waiting

   and the Lord is talking a long time.

   How do you keep waiting for the Lord and not get discouraged?

 

One of the ways you keep waiting, is to see and understand the tokens

   of God’s goodness that he gives to you. 

When Boaz told Ruth that he would redeem her—

   he said, hold out your garment, and put six measures of barley in it.

   80 pounds—notice little detail that he put it on her.

Take this back to your mother-in-law.

 

You have to see the humor of this.  Naomi must have been pacing, waiting.

   She hears Ruth at the door—How did it go?  What happened?

   Ruth drops this 80 pound bundle of barley on the floor—Let me tell you.

 

What was Boaz saying to Naomi with this grain?

I understand your need and I understand your panic.

   I understand why you sent Ruth to me in the night like this.

   I don’t approve of they way you did things.

But this grain is a token of the good things I’m working out for you.

   And Naomi and Ruth saw that grain for what it was, and were able to wait.

 

The Lord does the same for you.

In every long, potentially discouraging periods of waiting in your life—

   there are always, always tokens of his goodness—

   pledges that he has not forgotten, he will work things out in his time and way.

You have to be able to see those

   and draw a line from them directly to the Lord.

This summer I read a very powerful book called “In the Presence of My Enemies.”

   By Gracia Burnham.  Gracia and her husband Martin were kidnapped by

   Muslim terrorists in the Philippines where the Burnhams worked as missionaries.

They were kept in the jungle for over a year and subjected to terrible cruelty.

   They had two children who were not with them when they were kidnapped,

   and so their separation from their children was just one more hardship.

 

The thing that makes the book so good is the complete honesty with which

   Gracia tells the story.  She had high points and some very, very low points.

At one point she was so discouraged and angry at God,

   she decided to quit praying to be rescued, God was not going to answer.

 

That morning she prayed:  God, if you’re not going to rescue us,

   then just give me a hamburger.  That seemed to be the silliest thing to ask for.

   They were in the jungle, always hungry, living on meager diet, emaciated.

That very day one of their captors said he was going into a nearby town

   for supplies, asked Gracia if she wanted anything. 

 

She was sure it was a cruel joke. 

   Captors always raising their hopes and dashing them.

She said, Yeah, bring me a hamburger.  Was stunned when he did.

   As she ate it she knew it was a token from God—

   Was saying, keep waiting, I’m here, I know what I’m doing.

 

That’s a pretty dramatic story—being kidnapped by Islamic terrorists—

   but getting a hamburger isn’t.  I’m sure you have this very week received in

   your life, pledges of the Lord’s goodness at least as big as a hamburger.

 

Can you read the tokens of God’s goodness in your life?

The big things you are waiting for him to do may not have happened—

   you may still be waiting for God to work in big relational, or financial,

   or emotional matters in your life. 

You may be saying, How long, O Lord?  But can you see that the little,

   surprising blessings are pledges to you that he is working. 

   Look for them.  Lord gives them. 

Little encouragements and even big ones that let you know he is here.

 

CONC:  Old hymn says:

 

Hope in the Lord, ye waiting saints,

and he will well provide;

 

For mercy and redemption full and free

With him abide.

 

From sin and evil, mighty though they seem,

His arm almighty, will his saints redeem.

 

We have a redeemer—the great Son of Boaz—Jesus Christ.

   He has already given us the greatest proof of his goodness in his death for us,

   hope in him, wait for him, to keep all his promises to you,

   and work all things for the good.