Archive for October, 2017

Ruth 1:6-22 (Part 2 of 2)
Naomi and Ruth Return

Sometimes, we get all wrapped in what we don’t have we can’t see what we do have, even as Christ followers. Even in football, we can complain and think our favorite football team is going down the drain. Clemson, for example, played its last game on Friday a week ago, on Friday the 13th. The game was not on a Saturday because of the demands of television to have a few Friday night football games during the season. Clemson came into the game against Syracuse as the 2nd ranked team in the nation. They had defeated 3 top fifteen teams during the month of September and had disposed of its three unranked opponents pretty handily. The defense was among the best in the nation and given up an average of less than 11 points a game. They had been a ferocious defense so far this year. The offense had been consistently good and even had shown flashes of excellence at times. The offense was not as consistent as the defense but they were still good enough to average about 34 points a game.

However, on this particular Friday night, both the offense and defense turned in their worst performances of the season, and against a team that was unranked. The offense was horrid from start to finish, even though they produced a few good plays to score 17 points, but it was apparent to all that our starting quarterback, who had injured his ankle the week before in the game against Wake Forest, was not his normal, mobile self. He was noticeably hobbling as he played. Part of the key to the Clemson offense this year is the fact that Kelly Bryant is a quick and mobile quarterback. With a hurt ankle, he could not do any of the things that he normally does. He was so limited in his motion that he ended up getting hurt again, knocked unconscious, by trying to run on a bad ankle and getting hammered by a quicker defender. The coaches should have seen this but they didn’t and try to call a game as if he was fully healthy. It didn’t work. Then, after the concussion to Bryant, they brought in a backup who was not ready to play it seemed and the offense looked horrid the rest of the night. Also, the defense usually the thing that covered up for any shortcomings of our offense, played without passion and rarely made the Syracuse QB feel unsettled. He defensive backs were constantly out of position and got burned several times, although one DB returned a fumble for a touchdown. Then, there were the penalties on a defense that is usually well-prepared and plays with great discipline. On special teams, our kicker missed two easy field goals. It was just a horrid night. The coaches just did not have the team ready on either side of the ball. The players, too, took Syracuse too lightly. The result, a 27-24 loss to an unranked team and a big blow to the Tigers’ national championship dreams. If they win out the remainder of their games, they will most likely be in the playoffs but they lost any margin for error with the loss to Syracuse. They must win out or they will miss the playoff and have to settle for a nice bowl game.

With the loss though, there has been a lot of negativity among Clemson fans, including myself, as to the state of our football program. With the dysfunctional performance, many are wondering if that is the real Clemson and that the past two years of making the national championship game was because of the once-in-a-generation talent of DeShaun Watson, a coach on the field, who had the ability to command the team and make the coaches look good. There was and is a lot of negative things being said by Clemson fans much less anyone else. You would think that we were Tennessee or something. However, the bottom line is that DeShaun was a great talent, yes, but he’d be the first to tell you that we have great coaches and that he was not the only person on the field. Bottom line is that Clemson is still ranked #7 in the country even after the loss. Bottom line, Clemson can still make the playoffs. Bottom line, Clemson is still 6-1 and how many teams can say that after 7 games. Bottom line Clemson is the only second to Alabama in total victories over the past 6 ½ seasons. Sure, this team is not as good as last year’s national championship team but the sky is not falling. The team will recover from this loss and even if we do not make the playoffs this year, we will most like win at least 10 games for the 7th year in a row – again only Alabama can say more. And next year, this team will be national championship caliber once again because our coaches are such good recruiters and game managers and will be bringing probably the best recruiting class in the nation this coming year.

I know the ladies who read my blog may be yawning with a football illustration, but I think it is appropriate this morning. When we read of Naomi’s return to Bethlehem, she starts telling everyone to call her by the name of Mara, which means bitter, instead of Naomi, which means pleasant. She was letting the immediate aftermath of recent events taint her view of life not to dissimilar to how many of us Clemson fans have reacted to the loss by the Tigers on Friday the 13th. Let’s read the passage, Ruth 1:6-22, now and then we will discuss it some more:

6 Then Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had blessed his people in Judah by giving them good crops again. So Naomi and her daughters-in-law got ready to leave Moab to return to her homeland. 7 With her two daughters-in-law she set out from the place where she had been living, and they took the road that would lead them back to Judah.

8 But on the way, Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back to your mothers’ homes. And may the Lord reward you for your kindness to your husbands and to me. 9 May the Lord bless you with the security of another marriage.” Then she kissed them good-bye, and they all broke down and wept.

10 “No,” they said. “We want to go with you to your people.”

11 But Naomi replied, “Why should you go on with me? Can I still give birth to other sons who could grow up to be your husbands? 12 No, my daughters, return to your parents’ homes, for I am too old to marry again. And even if it were possible, and I were to get married tonight and bear sons, then what? 13 Would you wait for them to grow up and refuse to marry someone else? No, of course not, my daughters! Things are far more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord himself has raised his fist against me.”

14 And again they wept together, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye. But Ruth clung tightly to Naomi. 15 “Look,” Naomi said to her, “your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. You should do the same.”

16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. 17 Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!” 18 When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she said nothing more.

19 So the two of them continued on their journey. When they came to Bethlehem, the entire town was excited by their arrival. “Is it really Naomi?” the women asked.

20 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she responded. “Instead, call me Mara,[a] for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. 21 I went away full, but the Lord has brought me home empty. Why call me Naomi when the Lord has caused me to suffer[b] and the Almighty has sent such tragedy upon me?”

22 So Naomi returned from Moab, accompanied by her daughter-in-law Ruth, the young Moabite woman. They arrived in Bethlehem in late spring, at the beginning of the barley harvest.

In this passage, we see that Naomi had experienced severe hardships. She had left Israel married and secure. She returned widowed and poor. Naomi changed her name from Naomi (meaning “pleasant”) to Mara (meaning “bitter”) to express the bitterness and pain that she felt. Naomi was not rejecting God by openly expressing her pain. However, it seems that she lost sight of the tremendous resources that she had in her relationship with Ruth and with God. When you face bitter times, God welcomes your honest prayers, but be careful not to overlook the love, strength, and resources that he provides in your present relationships and in the true blessings that are present in your life.

Certainly, Clemson fans have much to be thankful for even though they lost to Syracuse 10 days ago. Many other programs around the country would kill to be able to complain about being 6-1 this season and having a record 34-3 over the last 2 ½ seasons, having won at least 10 games over the past 6 seasons. And it’s not like the program is headed downhill. They just lost a game. It happens. Let’s not lose sight of that as fans of this team and program. That’s the very same thing that Naomi should see here as well. She has much even though she doesn’t have much to show for it at the moment. She has a husband who blessed her. Two sons who blessed her. She had two loving daughters-in-law and she even had a daughter-in-law that gave up her entire life history and family just to go and be with Naomi. She had a daughter-in-law that was completely loyal to her and would do anything for her. She still had many blessings. She still had a God who had a plan for her that she needed to trust.

How often do we as Christ followers want to get bitter about what we don’t have or what God hasn’t done for us? Sometimes, we act as though God has never done anything for us by the way we act in a current bad situation. I think of David, who would often lament about very real, bad situations but he would always conclude his lament Psalms with glorifying God and His sovereignty over David’s life. David never forgot about the history of provision that God had over his life. Often, though, we as non-giants of the faith like David, we tend to forget the blessings that we do have because God has not given us the desires of our heart, or we find ourselves in a really bad situation. We blame God for ignoring our cries. We see only what is in front of us and not God’s history of taking care of us. We need a change of heart. We need to see how God has always provided for us in the past and trust that He will now and in the future. We can let current situations blind us to the wonderful blessing that we have simply in our salvation. We let temporary setbacks make us bitter toward God instead of realizing and trusting that He has a divine plan working, working, working in the background of our lives. Let us trust the Sovereignty of God even in the worst of situations. Sure, we can question God’s plan. We have that right in our free will and God can handle our questions and our doubts. But remember always the joy of our salvation is the greatest thing of all. Remember that it was our loving God who cares for us so deeply that He gave us His Son to be the payment for our sin penalty. Remember that God is almighty and sovereign. Remember to trust in the Creator of all things. Remember to trust that He has a plan. Remember that He works all things together for our good. It may not seem like it right now. It may seem like He doesn’t care. It may seems like the world is crashing down around you, but He is there. Remember that we have so much to be thankful for in Jesus Christ even in the worst of times.

Amen and Amen.

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Ruth 1:6-22 (Part 1 of 2)
Naomi and Ruth Return

“Wherever you go, I go. Wherever you live, I live. Your people will be my people. And your God will be my God” (Ruth 1:16). This verse is one of the most famous quotes in the Bible. It is often repeated as an example of love, loyalty and fidelity. It is sometimes used by brides in wedding ceremonies to express their love for, trust in, and loyalty to the bridegroom. Ruth’s expression of her desire to remain with Naomi here begins, though, with Naomi’s concern for the future of her young daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah.

Ruth showed great concern for their future to the point of asking them to stay behind in Moab. Both Ruth and Orpah were Moabite women. They would have more family available to them than Naomi could offer them. Heck, Naomi was not even sure that her husband’s relatives back in Israel were even still alive. She was just going back to Israel on a hunch, a gut feeling (inspired by the Holy Spirit, maybe) that life would be better back at home. She had no proof to offer these girls that life would be better in Israel. So, in thinking of the girls best interests, she told them to stay. Ruth and Orpah most likely would have had family that could have taken them back. Most assuredly, there were men of adult age in their home communities that would have married them. They would have been able to have their future assured through family, a husband, a home, and definitely children. In the ancient Middle East, that would be the ideal dream of a woman.

Naomi knew that in the absence of these young, vibrant, healthy girls that her situation would be even more desperate than it already was. As she was an aging woman, it would be difficult for her to easily gather food and harder to find work even as a servant. With the girls in her life, they would be able to assist her in making a life for the three of them. However, she thought more about the future of her daughters-in-law than her own. She could not guarantee these young ladies anything. She knew that the probability that their life would be better in Moab was much higher than it was for them in what was really and unknown back in Israel. Her selflessness, her concern for the future of her daughters in law inspired Ruth.

Ruth knew the odds. But Ruth’s love and loyalty toward her mother-in-law outweighed her thoughts about her odds for survival. Ruth must’ve really loved Naomi to risk it all to plow off into the unknown with her mother-in-law. She was willing to give up the sure thing in Moab to venture off into the unknown with her mother-in-law.

Let’s read the passage, Ruth 1:6-22, now and then we will discuss it some more:

6 Then Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had blessed his people in Judah by giving them good crops again. So Naomi and her daughters-in-law got ready to leave Moab to return to her homeland. 7 With her two daughters-in-law she set out from the place where she had been living, and they took the road that would lead them back to Judah.

8 But on the way, Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back to your mothers’ homes. And may the Lord reward you for your kindness to your husbands and to me. 9 May the Lord bless you with the security of another marriage.” Then she kissed them good-bye, and they all broke down and wept.

10 “No,” they said. “We want to go with you to your people.”

11 But Naomi replied, “Why should you go on with me? Can I still give birth to other sons who could grow up to be your husbands? 12 No, my daughters, return to your parents’ homes, for I am too old to marry again. And even if it were possible, and I were to get married tonight and bear sons, then what? 13 Would you wait for them to grow up and refuse to marry someone else? No, of course not, my daughters! Things are far more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord himself has raised his fist against me.”

14 And again they wept together, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye. But Ruth clung tightly to Naomi. 15 “Look,” Naomi said to her, “your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. You should do the same.”

16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. 17 Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!” 18 When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she said nothing more.

19 So the two of them continued on their journey. When they came to Bethlehem, the entire town was excited by their arrival. “Is it really Naomi?” the women asked.

20 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she responded. “Instead, call me Mara,[a] for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. 21 I went away full, but the Lord has brought me home empty. Why call me Naomi when the Lord has caused me to suffer[b] and the Almighty has sent such tragedy upon me?”

22 So Naomi returned from Moab, accompanied by her daughter-in-law Ruth, the young Moabite woman. They arrived in Bethlehem in late spring, at the beginning of the barley harvest.

In this passage, we learn of the desperate state that widows often found themselves. In the ancient Middle East, there was almost nothing worse than being a widow. Widows would be taken advantage of or ignored. They were almost always poverty stricken. God’s law, therefore, provided that the nearest relative of the dead husband should care for the widow. But Naomi had no relatives in Moab, and she didn’t know for sure that any of her husband’s male relatives were alive in Israel. Even in her desperate situation, Naomi had a selfless attitude. Although she had decided to return to Israel, she encouraged Ruth and Orpah to stay in Moab and start their lives over – even though it would mean further hardship for Naomi. Like Naomi we must consider the needs of others and not just our own. As Naomi discovered, when we act selflessly, others are encouraged to follow our example.

When we look at Naomi’s concern and Ruth’s response, we are reminded of following God’s call on our lives. For example, with me, the sure thing is to stay in my current career that has been very, very good to me and my family. Right now, I am at the height of my earning potential and I make pretty good money. I am not some wall street wizard or some brilliant entrepreneur but I am a pretty darn good accountant and as a result, even though my company is a small division of a large multinational company, I am the chief financial officer of my business unit. Combined all that with my children being grown, paying off most all my debts over the past decade, my wife and I are financially set. We have been able to put away savings, make nest eggs through investment, and by living frugally we have been able to be generous people. What more could you ask for? It is a life of security and blessing right now, after years of hardship.

However, God has called us to full-time ministry and we wait for Him to open that door in his divine timing and providence. We do not know what that will hold and what that will look like. It is unknown. It is a gamble compared to the life that we lead right now. However, we are willing to go where He calls us to go when the time comes. We are saying to God, like Ruth to Naomi, I know that we have no clue what we are getting into and we know that our life now is a certainty and it is secure, but wherever you call we will go. We will go where you lead. We will follow. We are not any great people for doing or saying that. I bet Ruth would say, I was just doing the right thing instead of allowing people to say she was one of the greatest women of the Bible. That’s what Elena and I say. We are just following. Nothing special. Nothing to be patted on the back about. Just following. Just listening for God’s call. Just doing the right thing. Sometimes, God calls us into the unknown, to the big black blob of the unknown. Sometimes, He calls us to risk it all and be faithful to Him.

Are you ready? Am I ready?

Amen and Amen.

 

Ruth 1:1-5

Elimelech Moves His Family to Moab

Recently, this past week, I had someone make a comment on a blog that I had written about two and a half years ago, yeah, that’s right. Two and a half years ago. So, the dude really must’ve been examining my blog space to find a blog from two years ago to take issue with me. This blog from two years ago was about the wonders of the grace offered us through Jesus Christ. I used myself as an example of the wonders of grace and how grace is superior to legalism. In that blog, I noted that according to Scripture that divorce is a sin. The only reason that God gave Moses rules about divorce was to regulate the way that it was handled. Since God’s people were stiff-necked sorts, God wanted to ensure that women were treated properly in this distasteful and sinful marriage breaker. Under the law, divorce is sin. Plain and simple. It is validated by Jesus himself. In Luke 16:16-18, Jesus says,

 

 

 

16 “Until John the Baptist, the law of Moses and the messages of the prophets were your guides. But now the Good News of the Kingdom of God is preached, and everyone is eager to get in.[a] 17 But that doesn’t mean that the law has lost its force. It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the smallest point of God’s law to be overturned.

 

 

 

18 “For example, a man who divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery. And anyone who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”

 

 

 

Under the law, I stand condemned as does my wife of the past 7 ½ years, Elena. We both have been married twice before. However, both of our previous marriages (two for her and two for me) each began prior to each of accepting Christ as our Savior and Lord. That does not make divorce any less sinful, but it does go to our motivations for marriage. It does go to the fact that we did not have Christ at the center of our lives at the times that we were choosing our spouses during those years. We were not Christ followers during those years. I did not come to Christ as my Savior until near the end of my second marriage (which crumbled under the weight of her adultery, my mistakes with money, and the death of her oldest son). Elena came to know Christ as her Savior about six months before we got married (as we sat in the small group meeting at our pastor’s house when we lived in California). Under the law, we both stand condemned. Under the law, we are sinners because of our divorces even though the marriages began when we were rebels against God and we chose poorly as to who we should be married to. Under the law, we are condemned as should have no access to God or to worship in the temple. We should be excluded from the people of God because of just this one sin much less a lifetime of other sins committed. According to my commenter at my blog, my mention of how God can redeem a second or third marriage is giving him the thought that he could steal money from a bank, beg for forgiveness from God, and then say that because he begged for forgiveness that it validates the stolen money as OK to spend. I think this fellow missed the whole point of the blog which was that God is in the redeeming business. Elena and I did not steal anyone’s spouse when we met. We were already divorced when we began dating but that does not minimize the sin of divorce for us. We are condemned by this sin alone and, like I said, not mention that we have mountains of sin that convict us as well. On our own merits, we stand convicted before God for the sins that we have committed. We do deserve a sentence to hell on the merits of our divorces alone. We can’t pretty that up or make that right or go back and change. According to the law, yes, we should be excluded from the pleasures of God’s righteousness. We should be excluded from heaven. We should have no claim to enter the gates of heaven on just this one sin alone. Just this one sin. What are we to do? How can we fix this? How can two sinners who have these sordid, sinful pasts that we cannot undo before the Lord before we met one another. How do we reconcile our sinful past to the purity required before God?

 

 

 

Grace is the answer. It is through Jesus sacrifice on the cross for all sins of all time that we can now approach the throne of God. Jesus paid the price and the penalty for our sins, past, present and future. I get the commenter on my blog is afraid that people abuse grace. I get that. But you have to ask the question that if a person claims grace over his apparent and unrepentant practice of sin, then, you may have to question their salvation to begin with. However, those that are truly saved have the Holy Spirit come to dwell in us and changes us from the inside out. Through the Holy Spirit’s working in my soul, I know that my past divorces are sin and it is because of just the divorce sins alone that I stand convicted by God and condemned to hell on my own merits. In the absence of the Holy Spirit, I would see that my divorces were OK and find reasons to justify them just to make myself look good. It is through the Holy Spirit that I am convicted of that sin and it pushes and prods me to make this marriage my last no matter what comes at it. I will no longer duck and run when our marriage hits a rough space. I will work on it and get through it. It is through the grace of Jesus Christ on the cross that I stand pure before God and the everyday working of the Holy Spirit that we become more and more like Christ every day. So, just as Peter stood convicted before Jesus for something he could not go back and change, Jesus asked this obvious sinner to feed His sheep. Jesus redeemed Him. Jesus made him useful to the kingdom. Jesus does the same for us through the cross. We can have our marriages that are sinful in the sight of God be made clean and holy through repentance and through grace. That is what makes for the joy of salvation and sanctification. We made free from the penalty of our past. We are given new life. We are made children of God. He can make the foulest clean!

 

 

 

What does this have to do with the passage at hand today? It has everything to do with it. Let’s read Ruth 1:1-5 together now and then I will explain:

 

 

 

1 In the days when the judges ruled in Israel, a severe famine came upon the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah left his home and went to live in the country of Moab, taking his wife and two sons with him. 2 The man’s name was Elimelech, and his wife was Naomi. Their two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in the land of Judah. And when they reached Moab, they settled there.

 

 

 

3 Then Elimelech died, and Naomi was left with her two sons. 4 The two sons married Moabite women. One married a woman named Orpah, and the other a woman named Ruth. But about ten years later, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion died. This left Naomi alone, without her two sons or her husband.

 

 

 

In this passage, we see that Moab was the land east of the Dead Sea. Moabites, who were related to Israel through Lot (Gen. 19:37), occupied parts of central Transjordan at various times. It was one of the nations that oppressed Israel during the period of the judges (see Judges 3:12 and following verses), so there were tensions between the two nations. The famine must have been quite severe in Israel for Elimelech to move his family there. It is a demonstration of how sometimes we compromise our beliefs to get what we want or think we need.

 

 

 

Marrying a Canaanite or anyone who previously occupied the Promised Land was against God’s law. Moabites were not allowed to worship at the Tabernacle because had not allowed the Israelites pass through their land. If an Israelite married a Moabite woman, they would have been prevented themselves, even though they were Israelite, from worshiping at the Tabernacle because of their marriage. Sometimes, when we are in desperate circumstances we compromise our beliefs and that is what we see here. Desperate times had come but as God’s chosen people, these Israelites, even in the land of Moab, should have set the standard for moral living for other nations. However, they mixed in with the culture and even married into it. How often do we compromise our values to just fit in with the culture around us? How many times have you and I stood quiet when people were Christ bashing and we should have stood up and said something? How many times do we commit sins that we try to justify later as being OK? How many times do we ignore God’s Word because we are in desperate circumstances? How often do we do an end around on God’s Word because that’s the easiest way from Point A to Point B. All of us stand convicted on this point. We have all sinned and grieved the Spirit of God. We have all made mistakes that somewhere down the road the Holy Spirit makes us want to throw up over the kind of person that we used to be.

 

 

 

Here in this passage we see that something bad happened that was against God’s law for the people of ancient Israel – to marry outside God’s chosen people, to marry into cultures that did not worship God. And, that is something that Elimelech’s sons did. They marry the wrong kind of person according the law. They clearly did this. There was no hiding it or justifying it. They compromised because of conditions. They went against God’s own law because of their situation. Bottom line, they stand convicted. Bottom line, they broke the law. However, because of the redemptive nature of God’s love and because Naomi and Ruth had such great faith, they were eventually redeemed from the horrid life that they were going to have to live. Because of their faith, they were rewarded. Because of their faith, the bad situation that began with a sin of marriage to the wrong crowd, God actually redeemed it. God made Ruth, who was from the wrong side of the tracks…I mean….wrong side of the Dead Sea, into one of the great women of the Bible. God made Ruth into part of the lineage of King David. She was his great grandmother. She also became part of the earthly lineage of our Savior and our Lord, Jesus Christ. She became part of God’s family and the line through which Jesus’ earthly family came. Her marriage was born in sin but it was redeemed. She would not have come to know God had it not been for this apparent mistake or sin of marrying outside the people of Israel. God used this mistake of the past because of the faithful obedience of Ruth after she came to know God and turned it into something beautiful.

 

 

 

No matter where you are at right now in life. Murderer. Idolater. Adulterer. You name it. God can redeem it and make it part of His plan. Your past you can do nothing to change. All you must do is admit before God that you are a sinner and believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross as punishment for your sins that you personally deserve. And proclaim with your mouth that He is indeed the rightful one to do this because He is the Son of God and that as the Son of God He arose from the dead to give you victory over sin and death and you will be saved. You will be redeemed. Your sins are forgiven through your repentance and revulsion over your past sins. Your sins are forgiven through the grace that covers them at the cross. You are now redeemed. You are now made new. Through the Holy Spirit, you will come to repent and be grieved over each and every sin you commit from now on and you will be changed from the inside out by Him. Through the Holy Spirit, you can see how we really do deserve hell in the absence of Jesus Christ. Through the Holy Spirit process of sanctification, we are made useful to the kingdom. Through the grace of Jesus Christ, we see joy of our salvation as we stand at the precipice of what was our eternal damnation in the fires of hell. Through Jesus Christ, we are pulled back from the brink. Through Jesus Christ, we are made clean. By God’s grace, we are made into a part of the kingdom of priests. By God’s grace, we are made part of those who are useful to God in bringing about His kingdom here on earth.

 

 

 

Yes, I am a sinner. Yes, thank God, I am redeemed. Yes, thank God, he has made my marriage clean. Yes, thank God, He has made two mistake-makers into a couple that is useful to His kingdom. No cheap grace here. Changed lives here. Joy here at what God has redeemed, made clean, and made part of the fabric of His redemptive plan. Joy here at God taking filthy rags and clothing them in the embroidered cloak of grace.

 

 

 

Amen and Amen.

 

The Book of Ruth: An Introduction (Part 4 of 4)
As we close out the introductory points about the Book of Ruth, we find that it teaches about God’s redemptive plan for man. As widows, Ruth and Naomi could only look forward to difficult times. Boaz took the responsibility of being the family redeemer. A family redeemer was a relative who volunteered to take responsibility for the extended family. When a woman’s husband died, the law (Deut. 25:5-10) provided that she could marry a brother of her dead husband. However, Naomi had no more sons. In such a case, the nearest relative of the deceased husband could become a family redeemer and marry the widow. The nearest relative did not have to marry the widow. If you chose not to, the next nearest relative could take his place. In no one chose to help the widow, she would probably live in poverty the rest of her life as, in Israelite and most ancient Middle Eastern cultures, inheritance was passed on to a son or nearest male relative not to the wife. The laws for gleaning and family redeemers helped take the sting out of these inheritance rules.

That Boaz went to all the trouble he did to redeem Ruth and take her as his bride is symbolic of what Jesus Christ did for us. He did not have to do what He did for us. He could have easily stayed in heaven and just allowed us to be judged and it would have been just and right for Him to do so. However, Jesus set aside His glory and came down to earth to redeem us from our poverty caused by our desperate state of sin. As John 3:16 famously states, “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” In the absence of Boaz’s redemption, Ruth would have faced a bleak future and may have had to resort to sinful behaviors such as prostitution to simply survive. It would have been a hellish existence. That is no less what Jesus does for us. He redeems us from our prostitution to sin. He redeems us from the penalty of sin. He redeems us from our bleak existence. He cleans us up. He took the penalty of our sin through his taking His Father’s wrath against sin on the cross. His blood shed on the cross is what makes us pure again in the sight of God as Jesus took the punishment for our sin instead of us having to do that ourselves. Therefore, we are made pure in the sight of God when we realize that Jesus died for our sins, that we were destined for hell in the absence of his sacrifice on our behalf, and that Jesus was the only one who could do that for us. He was the only one who could redeem us because He is God in the flesh and He was without sin. When we realize that He was God in the flesh and that He arose from the dead as victory over our sin and death, we are made His bride and we are presented to God as unblemished and spotless. We gain our right to new life through Him.

Boaz similarly redeems Ruth who was destined for hopelessness just as we are destined for the hopelessness of hell without intervention from Jesus. Boaz gave Ruth new life as His bride. Boaz gives her access to all his riches through his redemption act. Boaz gives her access to a new life that she would not have had otherwise. He did so willingly because of his love for Ruth. He gave her a new lease on life through His love for her. Jesus loves us that much too. He willingly made the trip to the cross for us because of His desire that we not spend eternity separated from God in hell. We are locked into a life destined for eternal misery without His redemptive love just as Ruth was destined for an earthly life of desperate poverty in the absence of Boaz’s redemptive love. Be sure that it was not lost on Ruth exactly what Boaz did for her. She knew what he was saving her from – a life of horrible poverty that could have led her to do things that poverty will cause a woman to do. She knew that Boaz’s love for her saved her from a horrid life. Jesus does the same thing for us. His love for us saves us from a life locked in the results and consequences of sin and has us sentenced to hell. Ruth most likely celebrated her husband in Boaz and was thankful every day for what He had done for her. As redeemed Christ followers, we should be thankful every day for Jesus, our bridegroom, has done for us. He has redeemed us from hell. He has redeemed us from our sin. He has redeemed us from our old life. He has redeemed us from our old sin self and has placed us in our spotless bride’s dress, all white and pure before God. He gives us a new life from the inside out. We should never forget and always celebrate the redemption by our bridegroom in Jesus Christ. As Christ followers, we should be the most joyous people on the planet. We know the eternal life that we were destined for and by all rights deserved. We know that hell is real and it is not a pretty place. We know that it is a place of eternal torment and anguish. We know that it is what we deserve for our sins as our just punishment before a sinless, pure and righteous God. That Jesus would redeem us from our deserved destiny should be a source of constant joy and contentment. No matter what we face on this side of eternity, it pales in comparison to the eternity of hell. No matter how bad our life gets, we know that Jesus has given us the keys to the eternal glory of heaven with God. Why then are we often the most morose people on the planet. We have joy unspeakable through Jesus Christ. We must celebrate it everyday. We must let it permeate our being every day. We must ooze out joy from the overflow in our soul. We must tell people the source of our inexplicable joy! We have been redeemed by Jesus Christ!

Boaz also made provision for her even before he married her through allowing her to glean the grain just as Jesus provides for us even before we come to salvation in Him. His death on the cross two millenia ago is the once and final sacrifice for all sin for all time. All we have to do is glean the grain. Jesus does not have to repeatedly be crucified. His act was the once and for all completion of the Old Testament sacrificial system for sin. Since Jesus was complete perfection and lived the perfect, sinless life there is no need for repeated sacrifices. There is no need for Jesus to do it over and over again. It was the ultimate one-and-done. He leaves the grain at the edge of the field. He leaves the grain on the threshing floor. All we have to do is pick it up and take the food that is necessary for our eternal salvation. It is there for the taking. All we must do is believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and proclaim it with our mouth that He died for our sins and that He arose from the dead to give us hope eternal. The grain has been left there for us to pick up and eat. It is up to us to reach for it.

The Book of Ruth is such a beautiful book and a real life example of what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross. So, let’s meet here at my next blog as we dive into the Book of Ruth.

Amen and Amen.

The Book of Ruth: An Introduction (Part 3 of 4)
The third thing that we have to take notice of in the Book of Ruth is that it demonstrates faithful obedience to God leads us to God’s promises for our lives. It is ironic that this point comes to light right now this morning. I call it God’s synchronicity. God’s synchronicity to me is when I hear the message He has for me at the moment from multiple different sources. It could be a combination of words from friends or mentors, from something I read, from something I hear my wife say, from something I hear on Christian radio, you name it. It always happens close together in time. That’s when I say, “OK, God! I hear you!” Sometimes, I am a little slow on the uptake so God has to synchronize the message to me from multiple sources before I realize the a-ha moment.

On Tuesday, I began reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book, Life Together, as part of my reading assignments for this, my second semester in the doctoral program at North Greenville University. With each night’s reading assignment, we must journal our thoughts about the things that grabbed us as read the selected pages. Last night, this is what I journaled concerning one of the main points of the selected reading:

We are bound together by faith, not by experience, Bonhoeffer says at page 47 of his book. So often, we taint our spiritual growth because we want to experientially feel those spiritual mountaintop experiences as measures of our spiritual health. We want the mountaintop experiences to define our faith and our depth of spirituality. We become disillusioned in our faith if we expect to have those spiritual highs that we sometimes are granted by God all the time. We can then become negative toward the body of Christ to which we are attached, because we are not getting the experiential highs that we think define spirituality. We sometimes let our faith be defined by the number and frequency of mountaintop spiritual experiences that we have. Many immature Christians live in this desperate rollercoaster ride of spiritual existence. They damage their local bodies of Christ when they become negative toward the body and may end up leaving one church after another because of the ever-present need and desire for mountaintop experiences of worship or of other special moments. When they are not getting spiritual highs close enough together, they are like junkies seeking the next fix. Whey their highs are not close enough together, they blame the local body and move on to the next church. All along the way, they damage the body and disrespect God. I lived this type of existence in my early years of being a Christ follower. Although I was not a church shopper, I did seek to reclaim those spiritual high moments. When I did not sustain a spiritual high, I thought something was wrong with me. Little did I know that being a Christ follower does not eliminate life’s ebbs and flows, and ups and downs.

Life is not mountaintop experiences all the time. Even after salvation, life goes on. Life is full of ups and downs. Life is full of more small moments that big ones. And, it is in these small moments, the small things that Bonhoeffer describes, that true faith is lived out. Faith is believing in God when life is mundane and nothing seems to be changing for the better. Faith is trusting in God in the everyday aspects of life. When we are faithful in the small things in life, it is a sign of our trust in our Maker. We trust that He has the big picture of our life in hand and that He will guide and direct us to the big moments of our lives where we experience the glory of God. We have to trust Him in what He has assigned us to at the moment, even if it is not some mountaintop spiritual moment of life. One of the things that God has been pounding into my soul through the working of the Holy Spirit here lately is that I need “to keep plowing the field in front of me.” I need to enjoy and thrive in the small assignments that He has for me now. It is only through plowing the field to which He has assigned me now and being faithful and diligent in my plowing that I will be readied by Him for the next field that He has in store for me. God has made it clear that I cannot be trusted with the greater things that He has in store for me until I find contentment in obedience to Him in the non-flashy work that He has assigned to me now. When I can be faithful and humble in the little things, He will trust me with the next field that will require bigger plows and bigger faith and bigger tasks when I am faithful in this field. This quote also shows me that if I am complaining selfishly for my desires rather than God’s will, I will be a thorn in the body of Christ. I will create fractures in the body simply by not being humble, faithful and obedient.

We live by faith not by experience and being thankful for the little things that God places in our hands all require trust. Trust that God has a plan. This trust requires humility, trust, faithfulness and a willingness to learn. When we are F.A.T. (faithful, available, teachable), we are of great usefulness to God through the body of Christ in which He has providentially placed us.

So, that idea from my journaling last night is the same idea that we get from the Book of Ruth. Ruth was faithful and obedient to the Lord that she barely even knew at first. She told Naomi that she would go wherever Naomi went. She said that Naomi’s people would be her people. Where you go, I go. She was faithful to that vow no matter how bad things got for her and Naomi. She shared in Naomi’s sorrows and was completed devoted to her. She could have easily given up and gone her own way but she was faithful to Naomi and it was through that faithfulness that she meets Boaz and then takes her place in the history of Israel as the great-grandmother of King David, the greatest king Israel ever had. And it was through the lineage of Ruth and Boaz that we find the earthly lineage of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. What if Ruth had not been faithful? She would have been like Orpah – a brief mention in the history of Israel, the book of Ruth would not have been written, and God would have found another way to provide for the earthly lineage of His Son.

But that was not the case, Ruth was faithful. She was obedient. She plowed the field in front of her even with things looked their bleakest. She hooked her wagon to Naomi and held on even when it seemed that nothing but death and despair was going to come from it. She, by faith, knew that God would lead. She didn’t know what the result was going to be but she trusted that God was make something out of the situation. She knew that God would provide. She didn’t know what that was going to look like but she trusted it anyway.

God’s synchronous message to me is not to miss out on what God is doing in you and through you right now because there is something that you are waiting for God to give you. Be faithful in the here and now. Be usable here and now. Be faithful in the small things now. Plow the field in front of you with all your heart and trust God with what’s next. Trust that He will reveal it to you in due time. Trust that nothing is wasted. Be faithful to the assignment God has you in now and He will reward your faithfulness in what seems like less than the promise right now with the great promise of later. Never forget the here and now. Be faithful in the field that God has your hand to the plow in right now. God is a God of promise but He is also the God of the right here and the right now. Trust that He has purpose in the here and now.

Amen and Amen.

The Book of Ruth: An Introduction (Part 2 of 4)
As we continue the introduction to the Book of Ruth this morning, we see in the pages of this book that Ruth was a Moabite woman. She did not let her heritage keep her from worshiping the one true God, nor did it stop God from accepting her worship and blessing her greatly. The people of Israel were not the only people that God loves. God chose the Israelites to be the people from the rest of the world would come to know Him. Jesus fulfilled the promise when Jesus was born an Israelite. Through Him, the entire world can come to know God. Acts 10:35 states that “in every nation He accepts those fear him and do what is right.” God works through those who love Him regardless of their race, gender, nationality, or past history. The book of Ruth is a perfect example of God’s impartiality toward those whose worship He will accept. Although Ruth belonged to a race often despised by Israel because of the constant tension and threat of war between the two nations/groups of people, she was blessed because of her faithfulness. She went on to become the great grandmother of King David and a direct earthly ancestor of Jesus.

The Book of Ruth reminds me that even though I am twice divorced in my past, Jesus can still use me. My past is littered with behavior that was in opposition to God’s design for your life and for mine. I sought approval and personal validation through the approval of the women I chose to be with in my life prior to Christ. I made women and the charms that they offer a man the god of my life and it lead me to a rollercoaster ride of a life and much, much heartache, pain and divorce. When we make a person (in my case whomever the woman was in my life) or an object (sexual relations as validation) the cornerstone of your life, it only leads to destruction. Seeking bedroom approval and letting that rule my life led to making choices that I knew were wrong concerning my kids, concerning money, you name it, that I knew were wrong in God’s eyes but these women were visible and God was not there and not visible to me. I chose worship what was tangible and that which I could touch. All the pain and the heartache that are in my past are very real and there is nothing I can do to change that. In some “religious” circles, I would be considered an enemy of the church. I would never be considered acceptable to some hoity toity church. Could never serve in any capacity. As a matter of fact, I might even be shunned to the point that I would feel uncomfortable and leave the church because of my past. I was, I admit, a hedonistic pleasure seeker before I met Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord. All I cared about was how life affected me. All I cared about was how to manage my world so that I could get the best out of it for myself. Sure, I was a halfway decent person. Wasn’t a murderer or anything but my morality was certainly situational as it was whatever preserved what I wanted and needed was the most important thing even above morality. Whatever I had to do to keep access to the charms of the woman in my life, I would do it. If it meant forgetting the difference between right and wrong, the difference between being a good parent and a bad one, I would do it.

I was having a conversation yesterday with the Pastor of Discipleship of my church yesterday and I told him that when I look back on the man that I was before Christ, I am appalled and disgusted. Not that I am any great saint 16 years into my walk with Jesus Christ (the Holy Spirit still got plenty o’ work to do in this here Southern boy), even the man I was 5 years into my walk appalls me. Even the man I was 10 years into my walk surprises me about how little about the depth of God’s justice, love, and mercy that I knew then. I suppose that 10 years from now I will sit and wonder how people would have trusted me with the gospel as the man that I am now at 55. As we grow in Christ, the Holy Spirit reveals to us things along the way. Things that we were blind to five years ago are matters of great conviction and pain now. How weird is that we are blind to our favorite sins but in time the Holy Spirit is able to get us to see them for what they really are – sin – and how we can no longer hide them or justify them any longer. As we continued the conversation, thank God for the Holy Spirit and thank God for grace of Jesus Christ. Without the work of the Holy Spirit we would be stuck in immaturity. Without Jesus I would be destined to hell because of my past sins that I recognize and my current sins that I ignore or don’t even recognize as sin yet.
But that’s the wonderful thing about our salvation in Jesus Christ and about the wondrous sanctification of the convert by the Holy Spirit. Now, I can celebrate what God has done in me. I can be honest and transparent about my past as it shows the miracles that can be wrought in the presence of the Jesus Christ. My redemption, the man that I am becoming, are all testaments to the power of salvation. It is a change from the inside out. It is not behavior modification. It is real change from the core of who I am outward. My past is evidence of the changed person that I am now. My past is my ministry to those who think that they are too far gone to be touched by the grace of Jesus Christ. My past is my testimony to the wonders of grace. God is using me right now. God will be using me for far greater and greater things for the kingdom as I mature in my walk with Jesus Christ. You are never too far gone and you are never too old to be used by Jesus Christ when you accept Him as Savior and Lord. It is not where you are in the race right now. It is where you finish and how you finish that matters.

That’s the wonder of the Book of Ruth to me is that it shows that no one should feel disqualified to serve God because of who they were in the past before accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. No one should feel disqualified because of where they were born or who they were born to. No one should feel disqualified from God’s work because you did not accept Christ at 2 years old, went to all the right Christian schools, went to seminary, and then married a preacher’s daughter, and then had perfect little preacher kids and that you have been serving the Lord all your life. God can use you right where you are. Your past is your ministry of the miracle of salvation in Jesus Christ. We each are ministers where we live, work, and play. We all have a redemption story. We all have a story to tell. We all have ministries through which we can testify to the might and power of Jesus Christ in our lives. That is what it’s all about. It’s not about your pedigree. It’s not about being the perfect pedigree of church going all your life. It’s not about being a second or third generation preacher. It is not about going to the best church. It is about Jesus Christ. It is about loving God with all your mind, heart, soul and strength and loving your neighbor as yourself. That’s what Ruth teaches us. It is about how much you love and obey God. It is about putting Him first in our lives. It is about giving Him glory in everything we do. It is about demonstrating what a changed life looks like. It is about Jesus. Let your changed life through the grace of Jesus Christ be your ministry!

Amen and Amen.

The Book of Ruth: An Introduction (Part 1 of 4)
As we move to a new book of the Bible today, we are thankful for the Book of Ruth. It comes at point in the Bible where you almost thoroughly disgusted with the people of Israel. The last thing we saw in Judges was that the people of Israel had sunk to new lows of immoral behavior. A civil war had broken out because of half-truths, gang rape of a woman to the point of death that followed after men wanting to have homosexual sex with a stranger passing through a Benjamite town. It was a very sordid and ugly time in the book of Judges. As we read through it, the behaviors became progressively worse as the nation of Israel strayed farther and farther from God.

Ruth provides us with a glimpse of goodness in a time of horrible morality in Israel. The book of Ruth shows us many things:

• First, it shows us that even in the worst of times, there are true believers in God who carry out their faith regardless of the moral climate of the nations (Part 1 of 4 of these blogs)

• Second, it shows us that participation in the kingdom of God is not limited by who you are or what you were and that God can use us all no matter where we start from (Part 2 of 4 of these blogs)

• Third, it demonstrates faithful obedience to God leads us to God’s promises for our lives (Part 3 of 4 of these blogs)

• Finally, it teaches about God’s redemptive plan for man (Part 4 of 4 of these blogs)

Ruth is a beautifully written and wonderfully executed book, though it is one of the shorter books in the Bible and deserves full study and attention by us. For today and the next 3 blogs, we will focus on the overall things that Ruth teaches us. Then, we will move into the passages of the book itself.

Today, let us look as the idea that Ruth teaches us that even in the worst of times, there are true believers in God regardless of the moral climate in which they lived. This is a key point in the book and it is a key concept that we must remember in today’s world. Here we see Ruth, Naomi and Boaz as people of faith and obedience in a dark period in Israel’s history. The story of Ruth takes place toward the end of the Judges period in Israel. These were dark days for Israel when “all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes”, the oft-repeated phrase in the Book of Judges. But even in the darkest of times for Israel, there were still those who followed God. Naomi and Ruth are beautiful examples of loyalty, friendship and commitment to God and each other. Boaz represents a man who is generous and faithful to the Lord at time when the world may have seemed to have gone mad. Ruth, in particular, is a woman of genuine spiritual character. That she was not an Israelite and she is the shining star in a bleak period in Israel’s moral history reminds us just how far Israel had strayed from God.

What can we learn from this idea presented in this book – that even in the darkest of times that there are people of faith. How timely is that lesson? Just think about our nation right now. Just think about other examples in the Bible of people willing to sacrifice it all for their faith. We begin with Jesus Christ himself. He sacrificed Himself for our sins as part of God’s redemptive plan for man. Jesus was faithful to the Father’s plan regardless of what it would cost him personally. He took on the wrath of God against sin willingly and obediently. He suffered pain and death to achieve God’s greater goal. He did not care whether He was popular. He cared only to speak the truth of God. He cared only to carry out God’s plan, regardless as to what it would cost him personally. Look at Paul. He suffered mightily in carrying the gospel to the nations. He spoke the truth of God regardless of consequences. And without Paul, it is quite possible that you and I as believers would not be sitting here reading this blog right now. Look at the other Apostles. They each gave their lives and died in their efforts to spread the gospel to all the world. In the Old Testament, we see this played out in the book of Ruth.

It is no accident in God’s divine guidance of the formation of the Bible that the Book of Ruth appears right after Judges. In Judges as it ends, we are as believers appalled at the state of the people of Israel at the end of the judges period. Man, it was ugly was it not. The nation had degenerated into civil war that can be traced back to a bunch of horny guys wanting to have sex with somebody regardless of who it was, a guy who throw his mistress to the wolves to save his own skin, and the callousness of a group of men who thought it was socially acceptable to gang rape a woman to death. That these behaviors even existed is evidence that the nation had become tolerant of deviant sexual behaviors and tolerant of “everyone doing what they thought was right in their own eyes.” We scoff at how horrid the people of Israel had become. We are revolted by their behavior and bemoan of what will become of the people of Israel here in this biblical history of God’s chosen people. We find rest and beauty here in the book of Ruth. We find that there are actually people who still love God and obey Him. Even in the darkest of moral climates, we find lovers of God. How relevant is that to us today? Mightily, it is!

We live in a time in history here in the 21st century where our country and perhaps the entirety of Western civilization has become like the Judges period Israelites. We have no king but ourselves. We pervert God’s Word by ignoring and saying it is out-of-date and no longer applicable to modern man. We have “evolved” beyond our need for God and for His Word. What was once considered the universal truth in the Bible is now discarded so that we can chase after our own desires. That we see fulfilling our own desires as god above God is history repeating itself in our day. We are the book of Judges today. We have forgotten God’s Word because it is inconvenient truths that get in the way of fulfilling our desires. All behaviors that are forbidden by God’s Word are open season and are glorified. In the midst of all that, Christians stand at a crossroads in a culture that is more and more openly hostile to God. We have choices to make. Are we to be faithful to God or do we join in the opposition to God. Do we stand out or join in? Ruth gives us an example of that there are people of faith even in the darkest periods in moral history. We do not have to join in. We have to be faithful to God no matter the circumstances.

What do we value most? Our eternity with our Father in heaven or fitting in with the culture. Even the organized church of today struggles with fitting in or honoring and protecting God’s Word. We as Christ followers must be Ruth, Naomi and Boaz in the face of the immoral hurricane in which we live. We must care more about obeying God than we do about the culture in which we live. We must be willing to demonstrate godly lives in the midst of a godless culture. We must be willing to be faithful to the Lord even when it seems to be out of step with the world around us. We must be willing to be faithful to the Lord when there seems to be no earthly reason to do so. We must have faith in a time when we may see no evidence of why obedience is right this side of heaven. We must trust in the Lord regardless of whether we get earthly benefits from it. We must bow before the Lord and not before the cultural norms of man.

For the book of Ruth, we are thankful. It is an inspiration to us that we see faithfulness regardless of the climate in which the people lived. They loved God and obeyed him even though they lived in a self-seeking, gratify me now society. How much more pertinent can a book of the Bible be?
Amen and Amen.

Here is an overview for the book of Ruth that I adapted from my Old Testament class from when I was in the Master of Christian Ministry program at North Greenville University in the fall semester of 2012:

SUMMARY, KEY THEMES & OUTLINE
The Book of Ruth
I. Title
a. The book is named after one of its main characters, a young woman of Moab, the great-grandmother of David and an ancestress of Jesus (4:21-22; Mt 1:1,5).
b. The only other Biblical book bearing the name of a woman is Esther.

II. Background
a. The story is set in the time of the judges, a time characterized in the book of Judges as a period of religious and moral degeneracy, national disunity and frequent foreign oppression.
b. The book of Ruth reflects a time of peace between Israel and Moab (contrast Jdg 3:12-30).
c. Like 1Sa 1-2, it gives a series of intimate glimpses into the private lives of the members of an Israelite family.
d. It also presents a delightful account of the remnant of true faith and piety in the period of the judges, relieving an otherwise wholly dark picture of that era.

III. Author and Date of Writing
a. The author is unknown.
b. Jewish tradition points to Samuel, but it is unlikely that he is the author because the mention of David (4:17,22) implies a later date.
c. Further, the literary style of Hebrew used in Ruth suggests that it was written during the period of the monarchy.

IV. Theme and Theology
a. The importance of faithful love in human relationships among God’s kingdom people is powerfully underscored.
i. The author focuses on Ruth’s unswerving and selfless devotion to desolate Naomi (1:16-17; 2:11-12; 3:10; 4:15) and on Boaz’s kindness to these two widows (chs. 2 – 4).
ii. The book presents striking examples of lives that embody in their daily affairs the self-giving love that fulfills God’s law (Lev 19:18; cf. Ro 13:10).
iii. Such love also reflects God’s love, in a marvelous joining of human and divine actions (compare 2:12 with 3:9). In God’s benevolence such lives are blessed and are made a blessing.
iv. It may seem surprising that one who reflects God’s love so clearly is a Moabitess. Yet her complete loyalty to the Israelite family into which she has been received by marriage and her total devotion to her desolate mother-in-law mark her as a true daughter of Israel and a worthy ancestress of David.

b. She strikingly exemplifies the truth that participation in the coming kingdom of God is decided, not by blood and birth, but by the conformity of one’s life to the will of God through the “obedience that comes from faith” (Ro 1:5). Her place in the ancestry of David signifies that all nations will be represented in the kingdom of David’s greater Son.

c. As an episode in the ancestry of David, the book of Ruth sheds light on his role in the history of redemption. Redemption is a key concept throughout the account; the Hebrew word in its various forms occurs 23 times. The book is primarily a story of Naomi’s transformation from despair to happiness through the selfless, God-blessed acts of Ruth and Boaz.
i. She moves from
1. emptiness to fullness (1:21; 3:17),
2. from destitution (1:1-5) to security and hope (4:13-17).
ii. Similarly, Israel was transformed from national desperation at the death of Eli (1Sa 4:18) to peace and prosperity in the early days of Solomon (1Ki 4:20-34; 5:4) through the selfless devotion of David, a true descendant of Ruth and Boaz.
iii. The author thus reminded Israel that the reign of the house of David, as the means of God’s benevolent rule in Israel, held the prospect of God’s promised peace and rest.
iv. But this rest would continue only so long as those who participated in the kingdom — prince and people alike — reflected in their daily lives the selfless love exemplified by Ruth and Boaz.
v. In Jesus, the great “son of David” (Mt 1:1), and his redemptive work, the promised blessings of the kingdom of God find their fulfillment.

V. Literary Features
a. The book of Ruth is a Hebrew short story, told with consummate skill. Among historical narratives in Scripture it is unexcelled in its compactness, vividness, warmth, beauty and dramatic effectiveness — an exquisitely wrought jewel of Hebrew narrative art.
b. Marvelously symmetrical throughout (see Outline), the action moves from a briefly sketched account of distress (1:1-5; 71 words in Hebrew) through four episodes to a concluding account of relief and hope that is drawn with equal brevity (4:13-17; 71 words in Hebrew).
c. The crucial turning point occurs exactly midway.
d. The opening line of each of the four episodes signals its main development
i. (1:6, the return;
ii. 2:1, the meeting with Boaz;
iii. 3:1, finding a home for Ruth;
iv. 4:1, the decisive event at the gate),
e. Meanwhile, the closing line of each episode facilitates transition to what follows (see notes on 1:22; 2:23; 3:18; 4:12).
f. Contrast is also used to good effect:
i. pleasant (the meaning of “Naomi”) and bitter (1:20),
ii. full and empty (1:21),
iii. and the living and the dead (2:20).
iv. Most striking is the contrast between two of the main characters, Ruth and Boaz:
1. The one is a young, alien, destitute widow,
2. while the other is a middle-aged, well-to-do Israelite securely established in his home community.
3. For each there is a corresponding character whose actions highlight, by contrast, his or her selfless acts:
a. Ruth — Orpah,
b. Boaz — the unnamed kinsman.
v. When movements in space, time and circumstance all correspond in some way, a harmony results that both satisfies the reader’s artistic sense and helps open doors to understanding. The author of Ruth keeps his readers from being distracted from the central story — Naomi’s passage from emptiness to fullness through the selfless acts of Ruth and Boaz (see Theme and Theology).
vi. That passage, or restoration, first takes place in connection with her return from Moab to the promised land and to Bethlehem (“house of food”). It then progresses with the harvest season, when the fullness of the land is gathered in.
vii. All aspects of the story keep the reader’s attention focused on the central issue.
viii. Consideration of these and other literary devices will aid understanding of the book of Ruth.

Outline

I. Introduction: Naomi Emptied (1:1-5)
II. Naomi Returns from Moab (1:6-22)
a. Ruth Clings to Naomi (1:6-18)
b. Ruth and Naomi Return to Bethlehem (1:19-22)
III. Ruth and Boaz Meet in the Harvest Fields (ch. 2)
a. Ruth Begins Work (2:1-7)
b. Boaz Shows Kindness to Ruth (2:8-16)
c. Ruth Returns to Naomi (2:17-23)
IV. Naomi Sends Ruth to Boaz’s Threshing Floor (ch. 3)
a. Naomi Instructs Ruth (3:1-5)
b. Boaz Pledges to Secure Redemption (3:6-15)
c. Ruth Returns to Naomi (3:16-18)
V. Boaz Arranges to Fulfill His Pledge (4:1-12)
a. Boaz Confronts the Unnamed Kinsman (4:1-8)
b. Boaz Buys Naomi’s Property and Announces His Marriage to Ruth (4:9-12)
VI. Conclusion: Naomi Filled (4:13-17)
VII. Epilogue: Genealogy of David (4:18-22)