Today I am sharing with you a short film which records the dedication of a sculpture in our graveyard, in honour of the ministry of women in St Jude’s parish over the last 150 years. The following verse appears on the sculpture:
“May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” Ruth 2:12
These words were spoken by Boaz, a Bethlehem landowner, to Ruth, a young Moabite widow, who had come to live in Israel with her mother-in-law Naomi. This was a remarkable deed by Ruth: it meant leaving her own people and her own parents to live amongst foreigners. There was no obvious advantage to her move. All she gained was her mother-in-law, who had little in the way of wealth or prospects.
Ruth’s deed, of course, was done not for gain, but out of kindness: she refused to leave Naomi alone with no-one to help her. Well might Boaz say, “May the Lord repay you.”
But notice what Boaz went on to say. He said that Ruth had come “to take refuge” under the wings of the God of Israel. You see, what Ruth had done was not just any good deed. While she undoubtedly had a special bond with Naomi, she was motivated by faith in Naomi’s God, whom Ruth knew to be the God of the whole universe. By coming to live with these foreigners, she was also taking refuge with the one true God. In so doing, she became a distant grandmother of Jesus himself (Matthew 1:5).
Christians can sometimes be nervous to speak about God “rewarding” and “repaying” good deeds, because we know that we are saved by his grace alone. But we should not discount those Bible passages which clearly speak of good deeds being rewarded: “God will not forget your work and the love you have shown him…” (Hebrews 6:10). However, it is crucial to notice that the good deeds which God rewards are those which are motivated by faith in Christ.
Let us be thankful for the examples of the good deeds of those who went before us. Our task now is to find and do “the good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).
Heavenly Father, thank you that all believers have been created anew to do good works which you have prepared. Thank you for the many past saints – and particularly today we thank you for the women – who faithfully performed the good deeds you prepared for them. We praise you that in your grace, you will not forget those good deeds which are done from faith in Christ. Amen.