May 27, 2012 Emmaus Church
So we are at week 3 of our brief flyover study of the book of Ruth. We spent a week looking at Naomi, a week on Boaz, and now we come to the character for whom the book is named, the character of Ruth. I hope that each of you has had time to read the book for yourself and study it and ask God to show you what he is doing in these people’s lives. I can never stress enough how important it is for each of us to read through and think through, and study the Word for ourselves. As a word of advice, as you read the word, don’t just read it like an assignment from school. This is a living and active word, it is sharper than a two edged sword. Is there anyone here who would handle a real sword, or a gun half asleep and not paying attention? Each of us should be alert and attentive as we read the word for ourselves. Also you read, you should be wrestling with questions that are posed in the text. Wrestle with what the implications are for you when things are stated, or stories are told. When you see a problem that seems to contradict your experience, ask why. When you see God say hard things to his people, don’t gloss over it, get into it, and search out an answer. In my experience, the answer is there, you just have to pray for wisdom, and keep studying. The Holy Spirit will show you. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends, and those you know who have studied the word a lot. He may use their insight as well to help you understand as well. But most of all, don’t be content to take someone else’s word for it, make sure you understand it from the text.
Speaking of the text, lets go ahead and read it now. We are going to read chapters 3 and 4 together, and I’ve said this before, this are the most important words that will be spoken today.
So, here we are at the end of the book, we have read the whole thing here over the past three mornings, and hopefully you have read it for yourself. We looked at Naomi, and how the Lord emptied her of herself, and filled her with Himself, in order to reveal the savior. We looked last week at Boaz, and how he was the redeemer in the story, and yet he was also redeemed through the work of God, in Christ, and how he not only redeemed the line of Elimelech, he brought forth Jesus through the line of Elimelech, and redeemed us as well.
So, now, we turn our attention to Ruth. What to say about Ruth? Well, there is so much in this story that we could talk about her. So many lessons that we can learn from her life, and her experience. There are moral lessons and things that we as Christians can emulate about how she responded to life and her circumstances. As I’ve said the past few weeks, the thing to remember is that this is a narrative text. It is descriptive and not prescriptive, so we cant and shouldn’t apply things one to one to our lives. This is not a dating handbook. We also cant look at this story and say this is how God works in all circumstances. You cant go looking for “your Boaz” or think that God will always provide earthly circumstances for you the way he did for Naomi, Ruth and Boaz. This is a recounting of historical events that were ordained by God to show us something of who he is. To help us see the big picture of His amazing work through history. I think you will find as you read this book, that even the characters recognize that the main character in this story is not Naomi, or Boaz, or Ruth, but God himself. This is a story about God, and His plan for redemption of His people through Christ.
So, lets get to know Ruth a little as we learn how God intends to use her to show us something of himself. She is a Moabitess from a pagan land, most likely pagan herself, she married one of Naomi’s sons, who later died, leaving her a childless widow. She Loved her mother in law, and was loyal to her. She ended up in a foreign land, poor, and without hope of a future. She had to spend her days in the heat, gathering the scraps that were left behind from the harvesters who were following a tradition of leaving the edges of their fields uncut so the poor could be provided for. It was a tough living, working all day, in constant fear of being attacked. Not sure if there would be enough, and knowing that your life depended on there being enough for you and whomever else you needed to feed. She was destitute, she was in poverty. And the thing that gets me, and should get you as you read this book is this…..She CHOSE this life!
So, here today, I want to wrestle with you over one question that hits me in this text, and just so you know up front, what I am primarily dealing with doesnt come from what I read today, that is the difficulty in doing this book as a character study. I wanted to read the whole book with you in order, but the things I draw from for each character are from the whole book. So, what is the one thing that I keep coming back to as I study this book, one thing that I believe God is giving us a shadow of in the life of Ruth? Today i want to ask you this question, “why on earth did Ruth go with Naomi?” What possessed her to take this path for her life, to choose poverty, and suffering, leaving her family, giving up a possibility of a future husband. Why did she do this? Think about it for a second. Naomi laid out an extremely logical argument for her to stay in Moab. Lets read what she says, in Chapter 1 verse 11-13…
She is in effect saying to them, “look, if you come back with me, my people, we have customs, and we have laws, and in order for you to have “rest” as she refers to it, you would have to marry one of my sons, (thats is the Leverite law that we talked about last week.) and let’s be honest girls, there is a snowballs chance that your getting a husband from me. If you stay here, your people are pagans, they don’t care about this custom, you can find a husband and live comfortably. My life is bitter, yours doesn’t have to be.” So, lets be honest for a moment, who is buying this argument? Orpah does, why shouldn’t we? Do you blame Orpah for taking the path that Naomi suggests to her? Is Ruth just Dumb? does she not see Naomi’s logic? or is there something else to her reasoning that goes beyond Naomi’s circumstantial plea?
So, lets look for a minute at how Ruth responds to Naomi’s plea. What does she say to her? look in chapter 1, verse 16, but I think the telling part is in 15. read with me…
Ok, so Ruth replies to her plea, she says something to the effect of, “don’t tell me that stuff, i know what you are talking about. I know what the customs are, and I know what I’m facing, and honestly, I’d rather face a miserable life with you than go back to what I could have here. I know it will be tough, but where you are I want to be, who your people are, I’ll be one, and (this is the key) who your God is, I will serve Him.”
Do you see what Ruth does in this exchange? she takes Naomi’s reasoning and adds a new level to what she is talking about. Naomi is arguing on the basis of circumstances, and Ruth says, “I see your circumstance, and raise you an all powerful deity!” And she seals it with this line that lets you know she is both serious as a heart attack, and that she is not faking this whole God thing. Look at 17 again…
When you read the Bible, don’t let lines like that go by without stopping you in your tracks and saying, “ what would possess someone to say that?” That is crazy talk, it is lunacy to call down a curse on yourself if anything but death separates them. Just think about that for a second. is there anyone in your life that you would say about? Hopefully you would say that about your spouse if you have one, but would you stand at your wedding day and say, “till death do us part… and may God strike me dead if anything but death separates us.” Ive never been to a wedding ceremony where that was part of the vows, yet we see Ruth making that vow to Naomi. this leads me again to ask the question, WHY?
While there are certainly many reasons and factors why Ruth chose to go back with Naomi, there is one that I want to focus on this morning. one reason, out of many others. The one reason that is the most important , I believe for us as Christians as we do things in our life that are hard, or seemingly illogical, in order to serve the Lord.
The reason is this I believe, that Ruth had seen something of God’s character and trustworthiness in Naomi’s life that led her to trust in His provision. She had seen something of God’s character and power that she desired to be a part of his people more than she desired to be alive. I say this because of the fact that when Naomi was speaking in pragmatics, Ruth went with the God card, and what did it do to Naomi, it shut her up didn’t it? Something about the way Ruth answered Naomi told Naomi that Ruth was convinced of this, and it was futile to keep up the argument. I believe it was that she saw something in Naomi’s God that was worth more than anything she could have in her land with her Gods. That has tremendous implications in this passage. here we see before our very eyes, a person who doesn’t know what is going to happen to her. She cant flip to chapter 4 and see how it ends for her before she makes the call to go with Naomi. She might as I suspect have heard the stories of the Exodus, and all that God did for His people in the desert. How he led them out of Egypt and fed his people with manna, and cared for their needs, and then brought them into the promised land, and that was what God used to assure her of his goodness. I don’t know that for sure, but what I do know is that there was something in her that desired to be with Naomi’s God more than she desired to be with the gods of her people that Orpah went back to.
And the thing we see is this: God delivered for her didn’t he? He came through for her didn’t he? We see it in chapter 4, when the women, say to Naomi in verse 14, “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman redeemer.”
Now here is what I want to drive home for us, there are things in this story that will not be the same for us in our lives. We may not see a change in our circumstances in this life. We may die poor, and destitute financially. Widows may remain that way. But, hear this, those who are in Christ, who trust in the Redeemer that is shadowed in this book, will not be left this day without a redeemer. We have one who saw something more than our earthly circumstances, he saw our spiritual state, and as it says in Ephesians 2:1-10…
So in closing, I want to ask you this question. Where is your heart for God as you look at the choices ahead for your future? Are your first thoughts for your comfort, and “rest” or like Ruth are you seeing something in God and Christ that makes you say that there is no place you would rather be than in the embrace, and saving love of Jesus Christ??