Ruth. Chapter one. Last week we began our Advent series looking at Leah and the birth of Judah. This morning we look at Ruth and the birth of Obed, the grandfather of King David. We’re continuing our series looking looking to Advent through the eyes of Old Testament saints, the ladies of faith, as we look to the reading God’s Word.
If you would join me in prayer, Father God. Indeed, you are the source of all light. And by your Word you give light to our souls. Pour out then upon us the spirit of wisdom and understanding that being taught by you in Holy Scripture, our hearts and our minds would be open to know all that pertains to life and holiness. And this we ask all through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen. Beginning in verse one. In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. And the man of Bethlehem in Judah went to Sojourn in the country of Moab. He and his wife and his two sons.
But Alimalec, the husband, Naomi, died and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives. The name of the one was Orpa, and the name of the other, Ruth. They lived there about ten years and both Melon and Chilean died so that the women the woman was left with her two sons and her husband without her two sons and her husband. Then she arose with her daughters in law to return to the country of Moab for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the Lord had visited his people and had given them food.
So she set out the place where she was with her two daughter inlaws. And they went out on the way to return to the land of Judah. But Naomi said to her two daughters in law go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the dead and with me. But Ruth said, do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you.
For where you go, I will go. Where you launch, I will launch. Your people shall be my people and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord do so to me.
And more also, if anything but death parts me from you. And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said, no more. So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the woman said, is this Naomi?
She said to them, do not call me Naomi. Call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought Calamity upon me the word of the Lord.
I mentioned last week how the Bible is a very honest book. Now, as modern readers, we very much like the story of a plucky underdog ruth, a foreign widow, unexpectedly comes to a place of great prominence in the history of salvation. But no ancient Jew would be very happy to pick Ruth as one of their national heroines. First, she was a woman in a maledominated culture. Second, and more importantly, she was a nonisolite who was from Moab.
Moab and Israel had a long history of hostility with one another. Think even in our own country, post 911, any national event that highlighted Muslims would not be very well received in our country. And so it goes with the rest of the world. For the conflict that they have with their neighboring countries, it’s difficult. And yet here we see Ruth comes from Moab.
The Bible does not sanitize Israel’s history. No PR firm was hired to come in and scrub their social media account for clean. The Lord picked Ruth, and she is a demonstration of what lovingkindness looks like. In contrast, Naomi and her family are demonstration of God’s covenant. People spinning their wheels.
They drifted out of Israel looking for greener pastures, and that’s not what they found. In the end, it led to exile. It led to emptiness. It led to death. Naomi returns home.
She’s bitter, angry and happy with the Lord. Her life had not turned out anywhere close to where she wanted. And all the while, the seed of her redemption returned with her like a cockleburst stuck to a dog. Empty, destitute. Naomi would have to wait for the Lord to reverse her fortune.
Disconnected and an outsider, ruth would have to wait on the Lord to include her in this redemption. Learning how to wait upon the Lord, his redemption, it stretches us, it stretches our faith to see beyond our own emptiness to God’s goodness, particularly when we’re not experiencing that. That question comes to us are you being stretched this day? If so, let the Book of Ruth come to your aid. For we also have to learn to see what’s not immediately obvious for what God is doing in front of us.
I appreciate Old Testament scholar Barry Webb. Speaking of Ruth He says Ruth contains no miraculous intervention by God, no inspired prophetic, interpreter or spokesperson, no events involving Israel as a whole. The story is entirely domestic and local in character. The divine workings are hidden, providential they lie beneath the surface rather than on it. In many ways, Ruth is like the book of Esther.
Now, the Lord is mentioned and talked about here, more so than Esther, to be sure. But the only active thing that God is credited with is actually at the end of the book in chapter four, where Ruth conceives and gives birth to a child. Other than that, God remains hidden behind the ordinary DayToday actions of normal life. In a few places. The history of Israel is marked by incredible direct interventions by the Lord.
Angels, mighty miracles. Think of the Exodus and other things, but they’re relatively few. Ruth helps us to see that the Lord mostly works in ordinary, mundane parts of life. And in his hands, they’re no longer ordinary mundane because he’s at work. And all this begins with an empty bread basket that sets it all in motion.
We’re told by the author that there’s a famine in the land of Judah during the time of the Judges. And the city they start out from is Bethlehem. The meaning of Bethlehem and Hebrew is the house of Bread. The city of Bread is empty now, not mentioned specifically, but famine as God’s judgment upon the people. It lingers in the background.
And as we read this, remember, these are well crafted stories. They’re not simply written as a journalist telling you exactly everything that happened. We’re not given a narrator’s perspective. We read something. Is this a good thing or is this a bad thing?
I’m not really sure. There’s no direct answers given in Ruth. We are called upon them to be careful readers listening to what is said as well as what is not said. Seemingly, Alimec is no longer able to support his family. So where does he go?
To Moab. Moab is a longstanding enemy of Israel. Some 50 miles away from Bethlehem, one of God’s covenant people leaves the Promised Land to find relief in the land of their enemies. We get the impression that he’s not a great example of being a faithful Israelite. And the story gets worse.
Alimalech, whose very name means my God is King, dies in a foreign land. Now Naomi, whose name means pleasant or sweet, becomes a widow in a foreign land. And the bitter irony gets worse. Her two sons married mobiid women. If you’re from Israel, that’s a yellow check engine light flashing like they’re foreigners.
Yep. Ten years go by, no children. Both sons die. Also a little yellow light going. They have not found favor with God.
These Israelites left the emptiness of Bethlehem only to find barreness and death in Moab. And yet, for those with Gospel eyes, that terse ambiguity gives reason for hope. God drove Abraham and Isaac by famine to prosper them in the end to different lands. God drove Jacob to Egypt in the grip of famine in order to bring a deliverance which would culminate in the entire nation of Israel crossing into the Promised Land. In Scripture, the mention of baroness is almost always followed with a filling.
The redemptive movement is from emptiness to fullness. And in the midst of the despair, suddenly the author interjects a word of hope. Rumor comes to them in Moab, verse six. The Lord has visited his people for God’s people. We may not be able to have answers for all the things that the Lord is doing with us.
And usually we don’t have any answers. We may not understand why he allows these circumstances to come, but even in the midst of unexplainable circumstances, there’s hope. Why? Because it’s the Lord who’s put us there. If God has put us there, there’s always hope.
His purposes are being carried through.
And in telling her two daughters inlaw Orpa and Ruth to return back to their families in Moab, she tells them verse 13. She says, no, my daughters, they want to stay with her. She says, it’s exceedingly bitter for me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me. And these daughterinlaws show such great love to Naomi, and her love is reciprocated back. It’s very clear she knows I have no hope, no future to leave Moab with her.
She said nothing for them. If they go with her, they are now exiles from their own homeland. All prospects are grim, and even so, she extends the Lord’s blessing upon them. Verse eight. Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home.
May the Lord show you kindness. She knows it’s only the Lord who’s going to be able to give him a blessed life. And this is coming from a woman who feels like she’s gotten a raw deal. How often has that been the case where you’ve been in terrible personal circumstances and yet you’ve given good and Godly counsel to somebody else? We can direct people to our Lord thoroughly convinced that he alone is their only hope.
All the while, we have a complaint against him. Seems to be a normal part of a life of faith, because we know there is only hope found in Him. And at her return, Naomi says, you not call me Naomi. Pleasant, sweet. Call me Mara, which in Hebrew is bitter, for the Almighty has felt very bitterly with me.
I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me? Now, these are honest words from a wounded heart. It’s a joblike complaint against God. Woe is me.
I am a victim of God’s hard hand of providence, and yet all the while there is this seeming cocklebar stuck to her side. It is a blessing she does not see at all. With a faith like Abraham, ruth, the foreigner, clings to Naomi, and she first forced donors me to leave you, to return from following you. For where you go, I will go. Where you lodge, I will lodge.
Your people shall be my people, your God shall be my God. May the Lord do to me. And more so, if anything but death parts me from you, that’s entirely unexpected noise or light here, and that’s the first time I go. Whoa.
Where did that response come from? How much Ruth really knows about the God of Israel, we don’t know yet. Her response is enough to shame those who know way more.
You see the mighty hand of God drawing in from the nation’s people to follow him. God is fulfilling his promise to Abraham. Through Abraham, all the nations will be blessed. A people that’s no longer defined by ethnicity and race, but by faith and roost love. For Naomi.
She has turned her back on her life, her family and Moab. She puts herself in self exile. She places herself at the mercy of the God of Israel. And that’s great faith, because so far there hasn’t been much to really encourage and engender that faith. She really hasn’t seen a lot happen that God has done for his people.
And she goes without the promise of future blessing, with the knowledge that she is a woman, a childless widow and a foreigner from Moab. Multiple references in Ruth at times referred to as a Moabite, letting us know right where she stands. And then she takes on a new identity of one who now belongs to Yahweh. While standing alongside a poor and bitter widow, god indeed moves in mysterious ways, and we see, from emptiness. He returns now back to the house of bread.
The author leaves us with this curious detail as Naomi and Ruth, these two widows, have returned. In verse 22, it says at the beginning of the barley harvest, no, Naomi, you are not just grist for the mill of God’s providence. However, your fullness is measured by a different standard than what you expect. And the cost of following the God of Israel is determined by him and him alone. As Ruth sets out, we get this curious phrase.
In chapter two, verse three, it says, she happened to come to a part of the field that belonged to Boaz of Wooden. Translation would say her chanced upon, or more freely, we would say, as luck would have it, of all the fields in Bethlehem which are essentially just a mix of patchwork ownership, unknowingly, ruth seeks permission to glean in Boaz’s field. She’s going simply to find food to glean from the harvest. And we find out that not only is Boaz a nice, generous and godly man, but he’s also a nearkin to Naomi, one who can redeem them. A kinsman redeemer is an official person who is in place to restore the family name of a relative.
What an incredible coincidence. And through chapter two and three, ruth has shown incredible favor by Boaz. He makes sure that she’s protected no harm from any of the young men. He makes sure that she and Naomi are provided for plenty to eat. And in all this, Naomi starts scheming to be a matchmaker.
But for all of her ideas, it is very clear the Lord is mysteriously directing traffic. And in chapter four, the tension mounts because we find out that this burgeoning love story is moving in the right direction. And now it stalls for a moment. Someone has been found who is a step closer than boaz, and he wants the land. He wants to redeem it.
But he’s unwilling to take on Ruth to have a child that would carry forward the name of a Limalech. He would not risk his family name for the sake of another. And one of the very peculiar features of the Book of Ruth is the names mentioned all over the place. Everybody is named, even the people without a lot of role. They have been given a name.
The one person who is specifically not named is this man, the man who would not redeem, the man who would not risk for the love of family to carry on another’s line. He is the only one who remains nameless in the book.
The man who would not redeem is not named. Boaz steps in to redeem Ruth, and all is saved. Chapter four, verse 13 says, boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. He went into her, and the Lord gave her conception. Now, for the first time, God does something active.
The Lord gave her conception, and she bore a song. And the women said to Naomi, blessed be the Lord who has left you this day not without a redeemer. May his name be renowned in Israel. He shall be to you a restorer of life, a nurture of your old age. For your daughterinlaw, who loves you more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.
Naomi takes the child and puts the child in her lap. And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, a son has been born to Naomi. And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. David.
Oh, king David. Suddenly, this quaint little story takes on national significance. The redemption of Naomi comes from the inclusion of a Gentile into the people of God. The redemption of Ruth comes from the Lord sending a famine to Bethlehem, the house of bread. The redemption of Israel comes from a king named David the greatgrandchild, of Ruth and Boaz.
But this story is more than just about this nation. Ruth is specifically mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel. The redemption of the world comes from Jesus, the one born in the lineage of David, the one who was also born in Bethlehem. See, no good Israelite would have intentionally picked this story.
A dirty, Moabite woman, the widow of likely a faithless Jew, demonstrates more faith in Yahweh and lovingkindness than most of their own people.
And here is the seed of David, the great King. And here is the seed of the Messiah.
In the time of the Judges, you can just hear constantly God’s people calling out because of their sin and misery, self inflicted. And, Lord, we’re in a tough spot. We need a miracle, a big miracle. You need to do something. Don’t forget us.
And God answers this prayer in a little insignificant town in Bethlehem through an ordinary barterly harvest. By a culturally insignificant woman.
Here again, Naomi’s complaint. Don’t call me pleasant, call me bitter, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me.
The Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.
The good News, the Gospel for Naomi, for us, is the Lord actually placed on His Son our affliction, our calamity, our misfortune. We’re told in Matthew 27 that Jesus is on the cross, that he tasted a sponge of wine and gall, of bitterness. And this one who came from Bethlehem, the house of bread, he emptied Himself so that we would live in Him who is the bread of life.
That’s the redemption that God is bringing. That’s the lovingkindness that we see from Him. We see it in the story of Ruth. We see how God has blessed her and how he has included her. And we think that’s an amazing story.
But it’s more than just her, because God’s stories point ultimately to the story, the story of His Son, of ultimate redemption for his people. And he reminds us who are far off. And I don’t know if percentage is here, but I’m pretty sure it’s well into the 90% that none of us are Jewish. We’re all here. Why are we here?
Because of God’s faithfulness honors his word to Abraham, brings forth out of emptiness and barreness life through His Son. We’re here because of that.
When I was in Israel, I talked with a soldier. He actually came to me. I was talking to Niggas. He kind of said a little bit of a snide sense. He just said, Why are you here?
Why are you here? Why are you in Israel? One who lives in a place with lots of foreigners coming through, you get a sense of doesn’t really want more people in Israel. And I just looked at him, I said, well, this is the homeland of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And I follow their god.
Does it? I follow their god.
The land of promise has spread throughout the world, and we’re here because of that. God’s faithfulness, we have been included. And no matter what is taking place in your life, the calamities, the catastrophes, the things that make us bitter and the things that make us unhappy, they’re not final in the hands of God. His purposes are being accomplished. We can’t often see them.
We don’t even know the things connected. That cocklebird on the side that you think that’s an irritant, throw it away becomes a flourishing blossom of Ruth.
How would you know that? Because God is directing your steps. A loving and kind God has ordained your steps. And even when you can’t see it, we call upon his goodness, the One who gives us life, the One who fills us to full and overflowing through Jesus. Pray with me, Father.
Indeed, we are so grateful for the fullness of life given to us to your Son and Lord God. We confess that so often, like Naomi, we call out against you for circumstances we do not like. Father, forgive us for our own shortsightedness, Father for our inability is to call you good because you alone are our greatest and our highest good above all things. And, Father, we ask that you continue to stretch our faith in those moments. Help us to see to a distant horizon, Father, through a life of faith all that you have brought forth through your Son, Jesus.
And, Lord, we would ask may he come soon, Father. Bring him soon to complete and to finish everything that you’ve promised. But in the meantime, Father, keep us faithful to the end so that Jesus will be glorified through the lives of his people. And this we will pray and ask in his mighty name. Amen.
You please down together as we saying yes.
Disclaimer: Automated Sermon Transcription