Robert Norman Ross (October 29, 1942 – July 4, 1995) was a 20 year Air Force veteran (retiring at a rank of Master Sergeant) who became a painter, an art instructor, and a television host of the still popular “Joy of Painting.” His instructional television program aired from 1983 to 1994 on PBS in the United States, but was also picked up in Canada, Latin America and Europe. What you might not know is that Ross was a Floridian, born in Daytona Beach and raised in Orlando, Florida. He had two sons. Though his show ran in the 80s and 90s, reruns still flood YouTube and other media outlets. Notable art critic Mira Schor called him the “Fred Rogers” of painting, (Referring to the host of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood) and noted both had soft voices and a slower and more soothing pace of speaking. The artist was diagnosed with lymphoma in the early 1990s, and The Joy of Painting’s final episode aired in the Spring of 1994. He died at the age of 52 in the summer of 1995. His grave is in Orange County, Florida (Gotha) and frequently has people who leave small pictures and paintings beside, according to a local resident of the area.
What Bob did was more than bring his large “afro” hairdo to the set and paint landscape pictures; he shared the love of his own personal passion for painting. It was all too obvious that he loved to paint, and he loved to show people they could learn to paint.
Why do I mention this painter to begin this lesson? I don’t want to sacrilegiously compare Bob Ross to our Creator, but I do want you to consider one similarity or reflection: Bob modeled his passion. He may have seemed a bit eccentric, but he truly believed others could learn to do what he was doing. The interesting thing is this: so does the God Who created us. God models love. He shares love…and yes, He teaches us to love. In Ruth 3, you will be able to see this truth…
Key Principle: God doesn’t just call us to love people; He offers practical models to show us how.
Before we get to our continuation of the story of Naomi and Ruth in chapter three, take a moment with me and look at the few descriptive verses about LOVE in 1 Corinthians 13. Ruth 3 is considered the equivalent in the Hebrew Scriptures – the main difference being that Ruth models while Paul (in 1 Corinthians) describes. Look at the description of love as God gave it.
The Description of Love in 1 Corinthians 13
First, a bit of context. Paul was in the middle of a section answering questions about Spiritual gifts, the empowering abilities given at your salvation with the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit. He made a point to answer five misunderstandings about these gifts to the church at Corinth. Reading the letter carefully, Paul wanted believers to know:
1. God speaks and engages them (12:1-2).
2. There are basic tools to discern truth from error (12:3).
3. Each believer is unique (cp. 12:4-7).
4. Each believer should be valued (12:8-11).
5. No believer should see themselves as overly important (12:12-31).
Paul then made clear that God had something even BETTER than great empowering gifts for His people. He wrote:
1 Corinthians 12:31 But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.
Paul said, in essence, because of God’s empowering the church isn’t lacking talent, gifted people or knowledgeable leaders; yet, because of choices it may lack love for people – and that is the most important ingredient for our work.
The body should seek from God the gifts that would fill out the needs of the whole group, but they should seek something else that was even more critical to the success of the work of reaching people for Jesus. They should seek the highest prized earthly possession of the church in her dealing with one another. They should seek to learn to LOVE ONE ANOTHER in the way God would have us love.
Paul made clear the priority of love in four arguments in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.
• Love is more important than great communication skills! (13:1). It didn’t matter if Paul could sing like an angel or argue like a skilled lawyer – the work of making clear the truth required a loving vessel.
• Love is more important than deep spiritual insight (2a). The gift of prophecy uncovered hidden spiritual truth, but it was of little value if issued from a harsh voice and cold life.
• Love is more important than great vision in God’s work. (2b). Faith that moves mountains is dangerous in a loveless servant – they are liable to dump the mountain on the house of someone for whom they have only disdain!
• Love is more important than self-sacrifice (3). Giving of one’s self is truly an act of sacrifice, but not all sacrifice comes from love. Many a parent raised a child out of obligation, but the house was cold because of the absence of true love.
Deep faith won’t make up for a cold heart. Both the traveling priest and the itinerant Levite mentioned by Jesus in the “Parable of the Good Samaritan” seemed to have plenty of faith. What they lacked was love. It was such a lack that it cried loudly to the man who lay beside the road broken and helpless. They crossed over to the other side of the path to avoid making his problem, their problem. In their rush to serve God, they left a man helpless and bleeding beside a road to die alone, and nothing they would teach or oversee in the Temple that week would change that fact.
Did you notice that Paul didn’t finish verse three offering any less than EVERYTHING – self included? Faith isn’t enough without love, and the same is true of generosity! Giving without loving also falls short. Perhaps we give from guilt, or to gain status. Generosity can’t replace love.
Paul explained the practice of love in fifteen short but picturesque descriptions (13:4-7).
It may seem dumb to hear it said, but LOVE (as God described it) is known by its practice. Love isn’t something you FEEL as much as something you CHOOSE to ACT upon. Paul made clear that love is not a mystical force (as in the case of some song writers who believe it is like mud you accidentally “fall into”). Not to sound cold, but love is a clear, calculated and consistent choice.
If He commanded it; we can do it! Even more… when a believer practices love – it can be measured (13:4-7). Paul wrote a description of its appearance:
1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Look at the description for a moment:
• Love is patient: makro-thumeo “long before burning temperature”. God’s description of real love is the kind that doesn’t “fly off the handle” and become rash in reaction.
• Love is kind: chrest-euo-mai: “to show one’s self mild or tender”. Love isn’t rough, but gentle. It isn’t harsh, but mild. If you find you bristle at the sound of someone’s voice and snap at them when they speak to you – you don’t love them.
Pastor Melvin Newland shared a story that I think fits well here. He wrote: “I heard a story about a woman who was standing at a bus stop. She had just cashed her tax refund check, so she was carrying more money than usual & was a little bit nervous about that. She glanced around & noticed a shabbily dressed man standing nearby. And as she watched, she saw a man walk up to him, hand him some money, & whisper something in his ear. She was so touched by that act of kindness that she decided to do the same. In a burst of generosity, she reached into her purse, took out $10, handed it to the man, & whispered to him, “Never despair, never despair.” The next day when she came to the bus stop, there he was again. But this time he walked up to her & handed her $110. Dumbfounded, she asked, “What’s this?” He said, “You won, lady. Never Despair paid 10 to 1.” Pastor Newland went on to make the point that kindness isn’t really kindness when it is self-serving, and it doesn’t always pay back in this life.
• Love is not jealous: dzayloo means “to burn with uncontrolled impassioned fervor”. Love hasn’t caused you to lose control. Lust does that, but not love. People will say, “Love makes you do crazy things!” We know what they mean, but it really doesn’t. The Bible simply offers no refuge to the person who says “I couldn’t help it; I just felt so strongly!” Our world has demoted truth and responsibility painfully, while it elevated feeling as the chief of all motivators. God made it clear – don’t blame love.
• Love does not brag: Per-pereu-omai means “to verbally celebrate or concentrate on self-issues and accomplishments.” By definition, love is “other person centered” and therefore not unduly focused on self. For every moment we spend justifying our own selfishness, we give up a moment in which we could have loved others. This may seem obvious, but the longer I live the more I see people starved for real love because they have settled for selfishness as a cheap replacement.
• Love is not arrogant: Phusio-o means “to become inflated and cause to grow in self-importance” and is the brother to the word “does not brag”. In our culture, someone has fed us the idea that our needs must be first, so that we can somehow have enough to care for others. That would be fine if we didn’t fall into a bottomless pit and find our needs growing as we fed them. Love doesn’t take all the air from the room, but allows others to shine and considers the needs of others first. Self-promotion is arrogance. Pouting when we don’t get our way is a form of childish arrogance.
• Love does not act unbecomingly: as-kay-mon-eh’-o means “act in a way that tears down the other”. Love builds up others whenever possible, and never seeks to cut down the other, or smash their dreams. It means holding your tongue and training your speech. It means saying you are sorry for anything that pulls the other down. It isn’t your job to FIX the other, but it isn’t your job to DESTROY them either!
• Love does not seek its own: The word used literally means “not forcing their own way upon another.” You keep hearing words that are the intonation of the same idea – the opposite of loving is selfish. Think of love this way: whatever you would like people to do for you – do THAT to and for them. This is a thinly veiled plagiarized quote from my favorite teacher…. Jesus!
• Love is not provoked: The word par-ox-oo’-no means “sharpened” with a figurative idea of becoming sharp or pointed. Love isn’t wearing a razor thin knife edge so that is can cut back.
• Love does not take into account a wrong suffered: The terms logidzomai kakos mean “to keep an account or record of evils suffered.” Historiography and forgiveness don’t really work together. If you find yourself saving up “what he or she did wrong” – you aren’t acting in love toward the other person at all. With every exchange, you are making a longer list of what they have done wrong, and readying it for release. .
Love calls us to notice others. It calls us to care. It helps us get off the center of the stage of our own lives and put others there. Love is at the center of our evangelism, and lack of it is at the center of our ineffectiveness to reach others.
• Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness: It “does not celebrate getting away with breaking a rule”
• Love rejoices with the truth: It “celebrates truthfulness”
• Love bears all things: From the word stego which means “to cover over or thatch”
Love listens. It takes the time to care. It covers over the fact that what is being said doesn’t seem relevant or necessary. Love locks on to the value of the other person.
• Love believes all things: to entrust and give credit to”. Love talked about is easily ignored while love demonstrated is irresistible!”
• Love hopes all things: epidzo “have high expectations of”.
• Love endures all things: hupomeno “remain under”.
The point is this: because love is a chosen set of behavior, when a believer practices true love – it can be measured (4-7).
The Picture of Love in Ruth 3
The third act of the story follows three people as God weaves the redemption story of Naomi’s once beleaguered family back together, this time making her line a part of the most important line in human history – the line of Messiah. On the way, each of the three main characters will model love in their own way – Naomi, Ruth and Boaz.
The story is broken into four simple parts:
• What Naomi told Ruth to do.
• What Ruth did to follow the instructions,
• What a surprised Boaz said about the plan of the women.
• An uncertainty about the future. The end of the chapter is left uncertain (from the perspective of the players) with everyone waiting for the final act of God to bring the story together.
Naomi modeled love in her instruction.
The story opened with a speech by a newly softened version of Naomi, fresh from God’s initial blessing…
Ruth 3:1 Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her,
“My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you? 2 Now is not Boaz our kinsman, with whose maids you were? Behold, he winnows barley at the threshing floor tonight. 3 Wash yourself therefore, and anoint yourself and put on your best clothes, and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 It shall be when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies, and you shall go and uncover his feet and lie down; then he will tell you what you shall do.”
With some small blessing, feeling returned to her long numbed limbs. Naomi began again to think in terms of love. What does that look like?
The small passage we read offers five examples of loving behavior.
First, love places another first. It cares for another above self. Love places the needs of another above the needs of self. This is reflected in “shall I not seek security for you?”
Second, while selfishness separates, love gathers. Naomi expressed again (after calling her daughter earlier) that her family was Ruth’s family. This is expressed in “our kinsman.” Ruth was an insider in Naomi’s mind, and that opened the door to allowing her to be a part of the solution.
Third, love sees possibilities for a future. Love isn’t just about the problems; it is about seeing and pronouncing hope. This is reflected in “he winnows at the barley floor tonight.”
Fourth, love works to make another successful. Using the skills she learned throughout her life, she counseled Ruth on what to do and how to do it.
A skill like proper appearance is reflected in “3 Wash yourself therefore, and anoint yourself and put on your best clothes.”
Another skill like “timing” matters in potential conflict situations. Naomi taught that love demanded Ruth think of what will work for Boaz, not what works best for her. This is reflected in “do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.” It would have been easier to walk up to the man and get the whole situation over with. She may have felt confidence to do that – but that was not what the situation demanded. Youth can be most seen in direct hubris. With some tempering, Naomi brought to the situation advice that led to a greater chance of success.
Fifth. love is honest and doesn’t hide the risks about the road ahead. This is a work of love reflected in “then he will tell you what you shall do.”
Ruth modeled love in her obedience.
Following the instructions of Naomi, Ruth went to the threshing floor and hung back until the meal was over and the servants bedded down for the night. The text continued…
Ruth 3:5 She said to her, “All that you say I will do.” 6 So she went down to the threshing floor and did according to all that her mother-in-law had commanded her. 7 When Boaz had eaten and drunk and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came secretly, and uncovered his feet and lay down. 8 It happened in the middle of the night that the man was startled and bent forward; and behold, a woman was lying at his feet. 9 He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth your maid. So spread your covering over your maid, for you are a close relative.”
First, loves learns to trust beyond sight. This is reflected in the phrase “All that you say I will do.” Ruth didn’t insist on understanding everything before she agreed to follow everything she was told to do.
Second, love protects the reputation of another. This is reflected in the word “secretly” in verse seven. This proposition could look like something unsavory, and could affect the reputation of Boaz. Making the connection without bringing dangerous damage to the reputation was a loving act.
Third, love subjects itself to the role of a servant. Note how Ruth related her identity as “your maid.” People who believe they are too important to serve don’t understand love. Love shows in service. Love expresses itself in subjection.
Boaz modeled love in his speech.
Naomi and Ruth modeled love in the passage, but so did Boaz. Keep reading as you encounter the speech of Boaz and you will be amazed at the clarity of the model…
Ruth 3:10 Then he said,
“May you be blessed of the Lord, my daughter. You have shown your last kindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich. 11 Now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence. 12 Now it is true I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I. 13 Remain this night, and when morning comes, if he will redeem you, good; let him redeem you. But if he does not wish to redeem you, then I will redeem you, as the Lord lives. Lie down until morning.” 14 So she lay at his feet until morning and rose before one could recognize another; and he said, “Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.” 15 Again he said, “Give me the cloak that is on you and hold it.” So she held it, and he measured six measures of barley and laid it on her. Then she went into the city.
First, love appreciates the kindness of another. Listen to the comment of Boaz. He made clear that she has offered him a wonderful surprise. He didn’t talk down to her, but up!
Second, love allays the fear of others. Boaz knew that Ruth and Naomi needed redemption, but he didn’t presume that he would be offered an opportunity to be involved (since there was another closer to the situation that had first choice in the matter). He made clear that he would not stand by and let the matter go undecided. He knew the fear and vulnerability of the women, and he didn’t want them to be uncertain. He flatly stated, “Don’t worry, I will act.” Her greatest fear was likely rejection. He second greatest fear was inaction. How many women fear rejection and inaction by the man in their life?
Third, love encourages and reaffirms good testimony. Boaz was quick to affirm the testimony of Ruth, and called her a “woman of excellence.”
Fourth, love seeks the best for the object of its love. Boaz wasn’t sure he would play a role in the redemption of the family of Elimelech, but he was certain that he would be able to stand by them until their needs were met, one way or another.
Fifth, love gives beyond expectation. One great thrill of love is that it is often full of surprise! Boaz made a promise, and that was a hope, but also an expectation. The barley was the unexpected gift in verse fifteen, a special surprise of provision that was both a sacrifice to him, and an unanticipated blessing to both Naomi and Ruth.
Love left things uncertain.
Note the excitement of anticipation in the atmosphere of uncertainty. Isn’t that exactly what love produces? Ask any young man who ever overcame the cracking of his voice to ask a pretty girl to dance, and they will tell you that all matters of love are risky! The text ends with risk – just as it should in a good drama. The chapter concludes with the whole matter unresolved…
Ruth 3:16 When she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “How did it go, my daughter?” And she told her all that the man had done for her. 17 She said, “These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said, ‘Do not go to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’” 18 Then she said, “Wait, my daughter, until you know how the matter turns out; for the man will not rest until he has settled it today.”
Love involves taking a risk. It involves a level of uncertainty that is so uncomfortable, many people choose to live without it rather than take a chance. The truth is, loving is risking.
• Ask any parent who has given everything for a child, only to watch them walk away and never call or seem to care.
• Ask anyone who has cared and given in love to a spouse who simply snubbed that love and was found in the arms of another.
• Ask GOD, Who gave His Son for the world, only to have many yawn and pass by the gift.
God knows the pain involved in the choices of people. He knows the risk involved in loving…Because God made His highest value LOVE, greater than all other values, He placed in everything the risk of rejection. That was illustrated in the Fall of man, it didn’t come from the Fall. It was built into the original design of the universe. God didn’t want robots that were programed to respond to Him – He made people.
Here is the truth: Rejecting the love of another person may be a tragic mistake, but rejecting the love of your Creator is an eternally tragic matter.
Go back and think through the love modeled by Naomi. She offered a classic example of love that Jesus Himself showed to us.
• Jesus’ love placed US above Himself as He faced the Cross to pay for sin.
• Jesus calls us to gather to Him in love and become one with each other.
• Jesus offers you the best eternal future imaginable, and even beyond your imagination!
• Jesus makes an offers to you of life, but also provides His own Spirit, to aid you to navigate successfully in this world.
• Jesus makes clear the difficulties ahead: the warfare and attacks of His enemy that come with your new life.
Jesus loves us, and the model of Naomi demonstrates that love beautifully. The issue isn’t God’s love; it is our response. Even the most loving and caring people can suffer the abuse of unthinking and selfish response.
• Some respond by ignoring the gift of love and living thoughtlessly, regardless of the cost to the Giver.
• Some respond by choosing a path to the gift of Heaven that more suits them. They want eternity in bliss, but not with Jesus. The problem is, in the end they will get neither Jesus nor Heaven.
• Some respond by seeing the cost paid for them, and are overwhelmed by God’s gift. They respond by wanting to know the One Who gave Himself for us. Is that you?
God doesn’t just call us to love people; He offers practical models to show us how.
There is an old ethical test that is used in counseling called “The Lifeboat Test.” There are a variety of scenarios, but the issue of selfishness versus selflessness is tested by placing you (mentally) on a sinking ship. There is no doubt the ship is going down. There is no doubt one cannot live long in the frigid waters. The question is this:
Will you try to find something you think will float and use it instead of a lifeboat? Will you avail yourself of the lifeboat provided?