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A Hidden Life, A Glorious Life (Sermon on the Book of Ruth)

Series: Miscellaneous

A Hidden Life, A Glorious Life (Sermon on the Book of Ruth)

June 23, 2024 | Andy Davis
Ruth 1:1-4:22
Life in the Spirit, Book Overviews, Exaltation of Christ

The book of Ruth celebrates how a man and woman met, married, and raised a family. Obscure people doing ordinary, faithful things… this is how God builds his kingdom.

- Sermon Transcript -

This morning is a special morning, I just wanted to preach through the Book of Ruth. We're not going to be able to look at all the details, but I trust that this study will be encouraging to you. Over the years as I've meditated on heaven, I've been consumed by the concept of God reviewing His mighty works in history that we might know His glory better and that we might understand what He did in redemptive history. God has sovereignly orchestrated the rise and fall of mighty nations and vast empires to achieve His awesome plans. And yet Isaiah 40:15 tells us, "Surely, the nations are like a drop in a bucket. They're regarded as dust on the scales. He weighs the islands as though were fine dust."

God sits on a throne of glory, and He pulls the levers and flips the switches, and mighty Babylon falls and it's replaced by the Medo-Persian Empire. Then Persia falls, overwhelmed by Alexander the Great and the Greek Empire. Then in time, they fall to the mighty Roman Empire. And on it goes, history rolls on. The earth trembles under such mighty events as these. And yet as impressive as all of this is and as much as I trust in God's sovereign orchestration of the mighty movements and epochs and history, I have become even more captivated by God's sovereign orchestrating of seemingly insignificant events in the lives of obscure people, leading ultimately to the most glorious empire of all, the empire of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Obscure people like Naomi, a Jewish refugee, a widow, grieving, empty, she becomes the hub of the wheel of a tender family drama of how her daughter-in-law met a Jewish man, settled down, married, and had a sweet little family. The Book of Ruth is such a tale. Obscure people doing seemingly insignificant things, having conversations, picking up the gleanings, the droppings behind the harvesters, and bringing that back after threshing it. Man meets woman, hearts getting knit together, promises are made and kept, a baby is born. How did such a tiny story like this make it into the Bible? Isn't that an incredible question? Think about that. A perfect record of God's Word breathed out by the Spirit of God. God wanted us to know this story. It's a marvelous thing. Obscure people, seemingly insignificant events.

As I was pondering that theme and meditating on heaven, I came across a quote from George Eliot's classic Middlemarch. She wrote, "For the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts. And the things are not so ill with you and me as they might've been as half owing to the number who live faithfully a hidden life and rest in unvisited tombs." That's not exactly true of this because it is recorded in biblical history, but it's an example of the kind of story that wouldn't be ordinarily recorded in history. A hidden life, obscure people doing these things.

What I want to do is to sweep across the four chapters of Ruth, this beautiful little four-chapter short story, and give you a sampler of its tender themes. But I'm also determined to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ from this Old Testament narrative. I want to get Christ from the Book of Ruth, and so I will seek to do that. Why do I want to get Christ from the Book of Ruth? I believe all Scripture is given as I prayed to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Years ago, I heard a story from Charles Spurgeon, which I've related a number of times at this pulpit. I want to relate it again. This is in the 19th century in England. A young preacher was preaching one of his earliest sermons, one of his first sermons, and there happened to be a veteran pastor in the congregation that Sunday hearing this man's efforts. When he got done preaching, he, with somewhat probably fear and trembling, went up to this old pastor and said, "What did you think of my sermon?" He prrobably shouldn't have asked that question, but if you're going to ask an honest man, you're going to get an honest answer. "I think it was not a very good sermon at all." The man was hurt by this and said, "Well, wasn't the theology accurate?" He said, "Yes." "What about the illustrations, the transitions?" "Yes." "What about the homiletics?" "Yes, all of that. But it's still a very poor sermon." "Why is that?" "Because there was no Christ in it.”  The young preacher then said, "But there was no Christ in the text." That was a mistake. "Young man," he said, "... don't you know that from every village in Hamlet in England, there is a road to London? And so it is from every passage of scripture, there is a road to get to the great metropolis of scripture and that is Jesus Christ. And if I can't find that road, I'm going to beat through a hedgerow and get there.”  I'll say, the more that you beat through hedgerows, the more you can lose people. And they're like, "I don't get exactly what you're doing." I want to try to give you a sense of how I would get to Christ from an Old Testament narrative.

One of the key principles on preaching from the Old Testament is to read from the back of the book to the front. And by that I mean the Bible. I interpret the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament, and specifically through Christ. I do this unapologetically as a Christian because the spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Christ. I believe it was written for that purpose. If you want to understand the origins of the mighty Mississippi River, you have to start it as wide, then you can bring it all the way back to a tiny little trickle flowing from Lake Itasca in Northern Minnesota, 2,348 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. But if you started at Lake Itasca in that tiny little trickle, you're not going to see the Mississippi River.

"I interpret the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament, and specifically through Christ. I do this unapologetically as a Christian because the spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Christ."

So you start with the greatness and the majesty of Jesus Christ and you trace back. Here we have the human origins in part of Jesus Christ. Christ therefore, for me, is the interpretive key to the whole Bible. If you want to understand Leviticus, read the book of Hebrews. If you want to understand prophecy in general and all of that, look at Luke 24 how Jesus with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus showed them how He was the fulfillment of everything written by in the laws of Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms. “Their hearts were burning within them when Jesus unfolded the scripture.” So we do that.

Secondly, I take the genres of scripture as they're written and I try to honor the style of writing. If it's poetical, if it's prophetical, it's historical, I want to do that. A historical narrative is meant to give you a “you are there” feel, there's sights and sounds and smells and interactions, and it's meant to transport you and put you there. It gives you a sense of the significance of everyday life, a sense of the reality that we're not looking at an Eastern mysticism or Buddhism thing where we're trying to detach from reality. We're immersed in it. We're going to have days like this, and we're going to have feelings like this. So there's that historical narrative that you immerse yourself in it, and we're going to try to do that.

This morning, I'm going to focus on these big themes. I'm not going to be able to get into all the details, of course, but I'm going to look at five individuals. First, a widow made empty and then full, and that's Naomi. Second, we're going to look at a foreigner at the fork in the road, and that's Ruth. We're going to talk about a man of standing at the threshing floor, that's Boaz, and a baby cooing in the lap, little baby Obed, and then most significantly of all, a coming king, the reason for this entire story, why it's in the Bible, Jesus Christ.

I. A Widow Made Empty, then Full

Let's begin with a widow made empty and then full. First, Ruth 1:21. Ruth says this, "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." That's her statement of her own emptiness, a feeling really of depression or discouragement. Let's first of all try to set the context, a dark context. This story really is, I think, a light shining in a very dark time. What is that dark cloth on which this glittering diamond can shine? The verse right before Ruth 1:1, you could look at it, just turn over, and maybe it's on the same... As your Bible is open, you got Ruth 1 on one side and you got the end of the Book of Judges on the other side. And it says in Judges 21:25, the very verse preceding the Book of Ruth, "In those days, Israel had no king and everyone did what was right in his own eyes."

The Book of Judges, in my opinion, is the most terrible book in the Bible. It's a terrible book. I mean, it's a faithful record of a terrible time. And we have this statement again and again four times, "In those days, Israel had no king." Three times, it's followed with that same phrase, "... everyone did what was right in his own eyes." It was a time of spiritual anarchy and really bad things happen in that book. I'm not going to trace it out, I don't have time. But we can see how deeply corrupt the nation of Israel had become and the judgment of God has come down on His people. This is not an accident. Ruth 1:1, "In those days and the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land."

So big picture, if I put Judges 21:25 together with the Book of Ruth, it's like, "In those days Israel had no king,” here's the beginning of the answer. Here's the lineage that's going to lead to the greatest king, that old covenant Israel ever had, David." But we know as Christians, the greater king is Christ. This is the answer to the darkness of the spiritual anarchy and wickedness of that time.

"In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land." Famine is one of the many judgments that God had predicted in Deuteronomy, in the Pentateuch ,before the Jews ever entered in the Promised Land. They had taken the Promised Land on condition of obedience. They had to obey the laws of God in order to maintain their life there in the Promised Land. If they didn't, God was going to bring judgments on them. Famine was one of those judgments. In Leviticus 26, He says, "I'm going to punish you for your sins seven times over. I will break down your stubborn pride and I'll make the sky above you like iron and the ground beneath you like bronze. Your strength will be spent in vain because your soil will not yield its crops, nor will the trees of the land yield their fruit. Because of your wickedness and because of your sin, you're going to go hungry. You're going to suffer with famine." It's not an accident.

That brings us into the era, into the setting historically, and now we're brought into one particular family, Elimelek and his wife Naomi and his two sons. Elimelek, I think, makes a very bad or significantly bad choice in this book. Elimelek, his name literally means “my God is King.” But he didn't live like it. He abandoned the Promised Land and he went to the land of the accursed enemies of the Jews, the Moabites. Other Israelites stayed there in Bethlehem. There were Israelites waiting there when Naomi came back and they were still living and they were beginning to thrive as God blessed. This was not required in order to survive, but it's a choice that Elimelek made.

Furthermore, his unmarried sons felt they had no other options than marry pagan women, Moabite women. Generally, this had devastating consequences. Usually, bad company corrupts good morals, especially in a mixed marriage. Again and again, we saw how pagan women would lead the hearts of Israelite men astray, an especially clear example is Solomon. He married a Moabite woman who led him to worship Chemosh, the god of the Moabites. What a wicked god and what a terrible thing that Solomon would be led astray by this pagan wife! It's a bad thing.

Now, amazingly, in Ruth's case, he went the opposite direction as we'll see, but this is the light in the darkness. God restores some blessing to Israel at the barley harvest. Look at verse 6 of chapter 1, "When they heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, Naomi and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there." The time of judgment is over. God is starting to move out to bless his people again. This was the cycle that happened again and again in the Book of Judges.

We focus on Naomi, sorrow upon sorrow. First, she's uprooted from her home and her extended family. Next, she loses her husband, she becomes a widow. Ordinarily, the reserve you're going to fall back on is your grown sons. They'll take care of you, but then they die as well. So she's three times bereaved. It's a very sad story for her. We see her self-pity when she says, "Call me Mara. Don't call me Naomi." Naomi means “pleasant.” "Call me Mara," which means “bitter.”  Look at verse 11-13 as she begins to express this bitterness and then says it later also.  In 11 through 13, she says, "Return home my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters. I'm too old to have another husband even if I thought there was still hope for me." Just stop right there. She is a hopeless person. She's expressing despair or depression here.  "Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons, would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than it is for you because the Lord's hand has gone out against me." She feels personally struck by God here. Then she says the same kinds of things when she comes back to Bethlehem. She exposes the depression of her heart by giving herself that name, not Naomi, “pleasant”, but instead Mara, which means “bitter" because God's hand has gone out against her. She felt that God was against her. Naomi is humanly speaking, the focal point of the story in terms of narration. The eye of the narration keeps coming back to her. She just ends up somewhat being the hub of the wheel, humanly speaking.

Here's a widow that seems to have nothing to offer, nothing going on in her life, and yet God is going to use her and her connections and her character and her counsel to shape history. Despite her sorrow and her depression, God has plans for Naomi and has plans to use her powerfully. Her decision to go back to her people in Bethlehem started everything. Her faith in the God of Israel saved Ruth as well. Her counsel through the story, "Do this, do that," her appraisal of Boaz's character, all of this is going to be vital as are her family connections. God can use even the weakest people to accomplish great ends.

Psalm 68: 5-6 says, "God takes care of the fatherless. He's a father to the fatherless. He's a defender of widows. That is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families." Isn't that a beautiful statement? It's so beautiful because at the end of the book, they bring little baby Obed and put him in Naomi's lap. There really is no direct connection. She's the former mother-in-law, and yet she's drawn in.

II. A Foreigner at the Fork in the Road

Secondly, a foreigner at the fork in the road. We look now at Ruth, the Moabitess. She stood at an eternal fork in the road. Her soul hung in the balance. She has a choice, Yahweh, and as far as we can tell, nothing or not much more in Bethlehem for Ruth knew no one there. She had no connections. Or all of her ordinary life in Moab minus Yahweh, the true God. There she did have family connections, some prosperity, and Chemosh, the evil God of the Moabites. Naomi in her depression is testing her daughters-in-law's resolve. She's doing a kind of “count the cost." "If you're going to go back with me to Bethlem, just understand what that road looks like right now. If you're going to come with me back to Israel, it's going to be hard for you, but it's harder for me." She's testing her daughters-in-law by putting there a fork in the road.

Orpah makes a bad choice. She goes back to her Moabite way of life. Naomi says that, "She's going back to her family and to her gods," including Chemosh. But Ruth makes this beautiful statement. How many times have we heard this for it's such a beautiful thing. I've heard it at weddings, I've seen it on artwork, and it's just one of the great moments in redemptive history. Verse 16 and 17, chapter 1, "But Ruth replied, 'Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely if anything but death separates you and me.'" I believe Ruth is in heaven right now by the faith that was behind that statement. It's a testimony of faith in the true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

In this book, we also have displayed for us Ruth's marvelous character. She has a beautiful character. So does Boaz. To me, the character of Ruth and Boaz together is such an incredible picture of biblical femininity and masculinity and how they work together when things work properly. We have this beautiful picture of a godly woman. She plays that feminine role wonderfully.  She makes it so beautiful, so attractive. She's pious, she's submissive, she's diligent. She's pious, we've already seen that by that statement, for she has a strong faith in the God of Israel. Her faith in the God of Israel is deep and powerful. She knows the gods of Moab, Chemosh, detestable and wicked, but she believes the God of Israel is pure light and truth. She yearns for that. She follows God and His laws with zeal.

Secondly, she is submissive. Her best decisions come in submission to the leadership of her mother-in-law. She does what Naomi tells her to do, and then later she does what Boaz tells her to do. Her beauty is described perfectly by Peter in 1 Peter 3, a gentle and quiet and submissive spirit that doesn't give way to fear. She lived that out. We see her also as diligent. She's a hard worker. She labors, gleaning in the fields. In chapter 2 verse 7, "She went into the field and has worked steadily from morning till now except for a short rest in the shelter." She's there picking up all the droppings that was God's provision for the poor people in Israel where when they harvested, they were commanded not to be diligent and meticulous. “Leave some things on the ground, and then the poor people will come in behind and pick them up.” She's doing that kind of gleaning. She was a hard worker.

She's also humble. When she interacts with Boaz in chapter 2, verse 10, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She exclaimed, "Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me a foreigner?" And a few verses later in verse 13, "You have given me comfort and have spoken kindly to your servant though I do not have the standing of one of your servant girls.” I'm not even up to that level. I'm an alien. I'm a Moabite." She's humble about that. She's also self-controlled. She's not greedy. She eats only what she needs and then takes the rest home to her mother-in-law and shares it openly with her. She's the portrait of a godly submissive woman just as Boaz will be of a godly protective man. Headship and submission, which is the foundation of Christian marriage according to Ephesians 5, is put beautifully on display here. What does it look like to be a really, truly beautiful woman? What is it like to be a godly man? We see that.

Because she's a Gentile, she's a picture of Christ's ultimate vast harvest of souls among the Gentile world. God has a plan for all nations. We see that breaking in from time to time in the Old Testament, and this is one of those times. She's standing there, that eternal decision at the fork in the road, and she makes that choice to go after the God of the Jews, the God of Israel. Listen to it again in Ruth 1:16-17, "Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God, my God." That's going to be consummated in heaven. One people made one through faith in Christ through the redemptive work of Christ, one God forever, and she's part of that. How beautiful is that!

The Moabites were a cursed and rejected people. Deuteronomy 23:3, it says, "No Ammonite or Moabite or any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, even down to the 10th generation." Think about that. But her conversion is a foretaste of Gentiles coming to Christ as Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:12- 13, speaking of Gentile Christians, "Remember at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ." She's a forerunner of that vast harvest of souls that we've talked about again and again in Revelation 7, "From every tribe and language and people and nation standing before the throne, wearing that beautiful white robe." That's Ruth.

III. A Man of Standing at the Threshing Floor

Thirdly, we have a man of standing at the threshing floor, Boaz. In Ruth 2:1, Boaz is introduced to us. It says, "Now Naomi had a relative on her husband's side from the clan of Elimelek, a man of standing whose name was Boaz." He's a man of standing, a mighty man of wealth. He's a strong man of wealth and standing in the community. But he's more than that. I think he's a paradigm of a godly husband. He's a man who's pious, he's powerful, he protects, he provides, he's kind and humble and honors and cherishes women in an appropriate and godly way. In all of this, I think he's a picture of Christ, the bridegroom. He is what all men should be. So we see God's sovereignty in putting them together. It's all part of the plan. It's beautiful sovereignty at work here.

Look at verses 2-3, "Ruth, the Moabite, said to Naomi, 'Let me go to the fields and pick the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.'" Let's just pause there. That's that gleaning rule that was laid out in the books of Moses, but I think it must've been Naomi that taught Ruth about this. So she's, "All right. I want to go. I'm going to go out there and glean. Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor or grace." Naomi said to her, "Go ahead, my daughter." Look at verse 3, "So she went out and began to glean in the fields behind the harvesters. As it turned out, or it just so happened.” She found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelek.  Now, let me ask you dear brothers and sisters, do you think this was an accident? Some random chance? No way. This was orchestrated by the plan of God before the foundation of the world. It didn't “just so happen.” She went to Boaz's field because God ordained it. It's beautiful. This is Boaz.

 What is he like? Let's do a character study. First of all, we see his strength and his prosperity. He's got strength and prosperity. He is a man of standing. He's influential in the community. You see that in chapter 4 where he is easily able to get elders together or talk to the kinsman redeemer that's neared than he is. They respect him. His workers respect him. They expect to be treated well by him because that's his nature. He's a leader. He's a man of standing. He's in charge of his estate. Men report to him. He's well able to provide for a wife and children.

You also see his piety. The first words he says in the book, look at verse 4, chapter 2, "Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, 'The Lord be with you.'" Wouldn't you love that to be the way you say hello to everybody in the morning? "The Lord be with you." "And also with you." That's how we're going to greet each other, but that's his nature. “'May the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob be with you. May he bless you.’" And they answered back, ‘The Lord bless you.’" They called back. Boaz has a strong sense of God's care for Naomi and for Ruth. Look at verse 12, chapter 2, "Boaz said to Ruth, 'May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.'" It’s a very important picture in the Book of Ruth, the spreading wings of God.

Here are two widows who have come for shade and shelter and protection under God's wings, a beautiful picture. Boaz has that sense, and he wants that to happen for Naomi and for Ruth. He wants them to be protected under God's wings. He knows she's a Moabitess. He knows that she's coming from a pagan background. He thinks it's marvelous that she's coming to the true God. We see also Boaz's kindness, his provision, and protection. He speaks kindly to Ruth. He's gentle with her. He compliments her. He makes sure she's protected and provided for. Look at verses 8-9, "So Boaz said to Ruth, 'My daughter listen to me. Don't go and glean in another field and don't go away from here. Stay here with my servant girls. Watch the field where the men are harvesting and follow along after the girls. I've told the men not to touch you. And whenever you're thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.’"

Do you see protection for her? She's safe there. She can work, she can flourish, and he wants her there. He's speaking kindly to her. Ruth is captivated by his uncommon kindness to her. It's not just what you do, it's how you do it. God loves a cheerful giver, and he is more than that. Look at Ruth 2:13, she says, "You have given me comfort and have spoken kindly to your servant, though I do not have the standing of one of your servant girls.”  When it's lunchtime, he invites her to dip her bread in the vinegar and to sit in the shade. He's especially zealous that no one harm her physically with insults or rebukes or something worse. Look at verses 15 and 16 in chapter 2, "As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, even if she gathers among the sheaves." That's the standing grain now. "If she should venture over into a part of the field we haven't harvested yet, even if she goes there that's not permitted, but don't embarrass her. Actually, why don't you go out and pull out some stocks for her and leave them on the ground?" I mean, he's going way beyond what the law was. The law was whatever fell on the ground, don't pick it up. But he's like, "Make some extra stuff fall on the ground."

He's just taking care of her. "And don't rebuke her, don't speak harshly to her." He esteems her highly as we've seen in verses 11 and 12, "May the Lord repay you. I have been told about what you've done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, how you left your father and mother in your homeland and you came to live with the people you did not know before. May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”  Then in chapter 3, verse 11, he's going to say to her, "All my fellow townsmen know that you're a woman of noble character." He doesn't just speak kindly, he esteems her. He thinks very highly of her and tells her so. Godly men esteem the worth of godly women. They don't denigrate or put them down. They lift them up and they talk about them and they celebrate them. That's what Boaz did. 

We also see his humility. He's not full of himself. He's humbled toward Ruth. When she makes the proposition toward him and suggests that relationship, he's amazed. It seems that she would choose him and not a younger man. He's not full of himself, even toward the other kinsman redeemer. "If he wants to redeem, let him do so. Good. You'll have protection then. You'll be cared for. But if not, then I'll do it." So he's that way.

Then finally we see him as a man of responsibility. He follows through on what he says he's going to do. So many young men don't do that. They make promises, they don't keep them, but he wasn't like that. What he says he's going to do, he's going to do. That's his reputation, and Naomi knew it. He says in chapter 3, verse 11, "And now my daughter, don't be afraid. I will do for you all that you ask." Then in verse 13, "If he is not willing, as surely as the Lord lives, I will do it. Lie here until morning." Then Naomi says, "Leave it to him. He's not going to rest until this thing is settled." She knows it. He's going to take care of it today. That's his reputation.

Now, central to this whole story is this thing called a kinsman redeemer. This was set up as part of God's provision for widows and for the deceased in Israel so that they wouldn't lose their heritage, their name, and their property because the property passed down through family lines. This is a provision for the poor and also just for someone's reputation if somebody should die. The way that the law went, the way it worked was if brothers were living together [Deuteronomy 25] and one should die having no children, the brother should marry the widow and have children in his name. That was the kinsman redeemer, someone in the family that would then redeem the situation and take care of her. He would provide for her and take on the burdens and the sorrows and the pains and the needs of the widow and take care of her. It's a beautiful picture of Christ as our savior. Jesus is our kinsman redeemer. I'll talk about that in a few minutes. But this is this concept.

In chapter 3, Naomi, the wheels are turning. You know that with the mother of grown kids and mother-in-law, there's plans.  There she is. She's like, "Hey, I've got an idea. Why don't you come? I've got some plans." It's really interesting. The harvest is completed. It's time for the feast. Naomi sees an opportunity, a time to settle Ruth with a family. In that, you see her other centeredness, but the connections are through Naomi. She's a Moabitess outsider. She's willing to use her connections through Elimelek's kinsman, Boaz. She gives Ruth some advice, if you can call it that, "Bathe yourself, put on your nicest dress, put on some perfume, get yourself looking good, smelling good, whatever, and wait until the man has had the feasts and a little bit of wine and it's a happy time." The timing, everything, the wheels are  just turning.

You may think that this is so manipulative. Don't think like that. This is a beautiful story. Let's stay beautiful. She gives her the whole script and tells her what to do. Ruth  follows it, she follows that counsel. She moves out. Look at chapter 3, verses 7-13, "Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down. In the middle of the night, something startled the man and he turned and discovered that a woman lying at his feet. 'Who are you?' He asked. 'I am your servant, Ruth,' she said. 'Spread the corner of your garment over me since you are a kinsman redeemer.'" It's a beautiful moment. That's an image that God uses in Ezekiel 16 for marrying Jerusalem, spread the garment over, it's a picture of provision and protection. It's a metaphor for marriage.

We also see beautifully that though she is submissive to male leadership and he's taking the initiative, it's okay for a woman to show energy and drive in this matter as well. She should actually. She's taking some feminine initiative here. "Spread the corner of your garment over me since you're a kinsman redeemer." Then he answers, as we said, “'The Lord bless you, my daughter,’ he replied. ‘This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier. You've not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. And now my daughter, don't be afraid. I will do for you all that you ask. All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character. Although it is true that I'm near of kin, there is a kinsman redeemer nearer than I. Stay here for the night. And in the morning if he wants to redeem, good, let him redeem. But if he is not willing, as surely as the Lord lives, I will do it. Lie here until morning.’"

We should see a connection between, "Spread the corner of your garment over me for you are my kinsman redeemer," to what he said earlier that I've noted in chapter 2 verse 12 that Boaz said to Ruth, "May you be richly awarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge." It's the same image, it’s that of provision and protection. God often does that through a godly husband. If the Lord should take away a godly husband through death, God is still there to be the provider and protector. There is that parallel imagery here of, "Spread the corner of your garment over me and let me flourish under your provision and protection." Somewhat like the expression we have in our culture, "under his roof,” “ you're under my roof.” “You're under my protection and you'll be provided for, protected from the rain and the elements, and you'll be warm when it's cold, et cetera." And so it is.

I love also how at the end of that time on the threshing floor, he's concerned about her reputation and his own. It really does matter. Their time together on the threshing floor is completely pure. What happened is what it said happened here, that's all. But he's aware that people's minds are corrupt and people's tongues can wag, and reputation matters, so he makes certain that she leaves before anybody could be recognized, still dark. He also makes sure that she doesn't go back to Naomi empty-handed. He gives her even more barley.  When she threshed the first time, I had to calculate it. It was 22 liters. If you don't know what a liter is, you know what a two liter bottle is. Imagine 11 two liter bottles of barley. It's just lavish. Now she's going back with as much as she can carry in her shawl. It's a symbol of a desire to continue to provide and to meet her needs. 

As I said, Naomi said, "Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens for that man will not rest until the matter is settled today." So it goes over to chapter 4, and we have this negotiation. Though Boaz was a kinsman redeemer, he said there's one closer than him, so he summons the man and they sit down at the city gate in front of ten witnesses and brought the man to a decision. That unnamed man is purposely unnamed because he made a bad decision. We'd know his name if he had made the right decision, maybe. I don't know. But he's like Orpah that went away from the whole story,  he went in a different direction. This man will not be a kinsman redeemer. He will not provide and protect because he might endanger his own estate. They transact by taking off the sandal. That's not the whole thing. If you read in Deuteronomy 25, if a man will not play the role of the kinsman redeemer, the widow gets to go take off his sandal, spit in his face, and say, "This is what is done to the man who will not provide for his brother's widow. And from then on, that clan will be called the family of the unsandaled." This is a very tame version of that. In those days, they used to settle final matters with the passing of a sandal. It's like, "All right. If that's how you want to talk about it." But the fact is he refused to take care. At that point, now Boaz can step up and do what he was led to do. Boaz is a model man.

You may wonder why? Part of the story, we don't really understand anywhere in the 39 books of the Old Testament, but it's in the genealogy of Jesus. We find out that Boaz's mother was Rahab the harlot. We find that out only in one place and that's in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1. He had an openness to God's activity among the Gentiles in ways that most Jews wouldn't have. Rahab is celebrated in two key passages in the New Testament in the book of Hebrews, "by faith, Rahab," and in James as a pinnacle example of faith and works working together. That's the mother of this man Boaz. She raised him up with this kind of faith, and it's really quite remarkable. Isn't it amazing that Jesus's genealogy has two such interesting women? Rahab, the Canaanite prostitute who was rescued by her faith just in time. She lived in the walls of Jericho before they came tumbling down, and was rescued. Then this Moabitess woman, Ruth.

IV. A Baby Cooing in the Lap

Fourth, a baby cooing in the lap. Ruth 4:13, "So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. Then he went to her and the Lord enabled her to conceive and she gave birth to a son." Babies are a blessing from God. Look how the women celebrated him. Verses 14-17, "The women said to Naomi, ‘Praise be the Lord who who this day has not left you without a kinsman redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel. He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age for your daughter-in-law who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons has given him birth.'"

Then we see Naomi's sweet end in verses 16-7, "Naomi took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him. And the woman living there said, 'Naomi has a son.'" It's just by grace she gets drawn into this whole family story and she's part of the family. It's so beautiful. This woman who returned empty was finally made full by the grace of God.

V. A Coming King…The Reason for It All

The most important person in this story ultimately is none of the people in this story. The most important person in this story is Jesus the Savior, not even David. From this lineage, we get David. This is a family heritage story. Look at verses 17-22, the genealogy, "They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. This then is the family line of Perez. Perez was the father of Hezron. Hezron the father of Ram. Ram the father of Amminadab. Amminadab the father of Nahshon. Nahshon the father of Salmon. Salmon the father of Boaz." Matthew 1 says, "Whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed whose mother was Ruth,”  he adds those extra words. Obed the father of Jesse. And Jesse the father of David. It's a beautiful story. There's grace all over the story.

There’s favor in chapter 2. Ruth 2:2, "Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone gin whose eyes I find favor or grace." Ruth 2:10, "At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She exclaimed, 'Why have I found such favor or grace in your eyes that you notice me a foreigner?'" And then again in 2:13, "May I continue to find grace or favor in your eyes?" God's grace is on Israel. First, giving them the harvest at all, though they were sinful. Then secondly, giving them what Judges 21:25 said they needed, a righteous king so that they would not do what was right in their own eyes, but would live righteously. That was David, and then ultimately Christ.

Jesus is the fulfillment of all of the images there are. There's Christ in this story. How do you see Christ in the story? Christ Jesus was born in Bethlehem. But what does Bethlehem mean? It means the “city of bread,” “house of bread.” Jesus is the bread of life. How important is food in the story? It's huge. It's why Elimelek left, it's why Naomi came back, it's how Boaz initially shows grace and mercy and favor. It's just evidence, Jesus is the fulfillment of that.

Jesus is the bread of life as He said in John 6, "I'm the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he'll live forever. And this bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." Jesus by his death feeds us for all eternity and gives us eternal life.

Secondly, Jesus is the kinsman redeemer. Hebrews chapter 2 tells us He's not ashamed to call us His family. We are related to Him. He took on flesh and blood because we have flesh and blood. By His death, He destroyed him who held the power of death. Surely, it's not angels He helps, but His family, and we are his kin. Even we Gentiles who are called honorary by faith, sons and daughters of Abraham, we are His kin. We were redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, by our kinsmen.

Thirdly, Jesus is the bridegroom. John the Baptist called Jesus the bridegroom saying the bride belongs to him. Jesus Himself called Himself a bridegroom in Mark 2. Paul says, "All Christian marriages picture the relationship between Christ and the church." We live in a very gender confused age. We don't know what godly masculinity and femininity look like as a culture. The church needs to be a light shining in a dark place in this. We need to know what it means to be a strong man who uses his strength and standing in the community to provide and protect for women, not just his own family, but all women, that's his stance. That women can flourish and be beautiful and raise children if they're given that. But even if they're single, in that beautiful Christ-like leadership of his bride, we playing that submissive role, it's a beautiful picture.

What we see as beautiful, our society sees as ugly and disgusting. The word patriarchy seemed to be almost a curse word. This is patriarchy at its best, and the Bible is patriarchal. There's no getting around that. That means the leadership or rulership of fathers within families, but this is how it looks beautifully. I understand why people have turned away because men have abused women and children, many men have. But isn't it fascinating how despite the fact that there are tyrants that have abused kingship, we still delight in Jesus as king? We don't throw out the pattern because some have abused it. So it is a beautiful thing.

Jesus also is the harvest. Jesus is the harvest feast. We're going to sit at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and feast. Will there be actual food there? Yes. I think the real feast of heaven isn't what we will chew and swallow. The real feast of heaven will be the glory of Christ. He is the feast. He is what we get. He is the child that's born to lead, “for to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he'll be called wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting father, prince of peace. Of the increase of his kingdom and peace, there'll be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom forever.” That's Jesus.

"The real feast of heaven will be the glory of Christ. He is the feast."

Obed is a picture of that child who is born. Jesus is the wings of refuge. He said, "Jerusalem. Jerusalem, you who killed the prophets and stoned those sent to you, how often I've longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not." We are those who are willing to be gathered under the wings of Jesus as our savior, our provider, and protector. Jesus is the fulfillment of all of those things, and Jesus is the coming king.

VI. Applications

 First, faith like Ruth. Can you say to Jesus, "Where you go, I will go, where you stay, I will stay. Your God will be my God. I will be your follower"? That's what really matters. Naomi's piety and faith was attractive to Ruth, but Naomi wasn't Ruth's savior. Jesus is our savior. Have you made that statement? "I will follow you Lord Jesus wherever you go. You are my savior."

Secondly, as I began the sermon, hidden lives matter. For the most part, we're leading hidden lives that are not going to be recorded in history. The little things we do, the interactions we make, the courtships, the relationships, the things that go together, family life, life as singles, all of those things, hidden lives, they matter, and God uses them to build his kingdom.

Thirdly, what should a godly woman and a godly man look like? I've been over it, but be like that. I was very convicted and helped when I wrote this sermon. I just said to my wife, "I want to be like Boaz. That's what I want." And I was for a while. But then again and again, we need to repent and come back. “All Scriptures are God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.” And that's what that book did for me.

And thirdly, delight in Christ and put your faith in Him. This story is ultimately about Him.

Close with me in prayer. 

Lord, thank you for the time we've had to walk through this beautiful little story. Thank you for its lessons. Thank you for its power. I pray that you would please work these themes in our hearts and make us what you want us to be. I pray that you would be working in us, ultimately, salvation. Jesus is the savior. He is our kinsman redeemer who shed his blood that we'd be redeemed from the empty way of life that we inherited from our forefathers. Lord, help us to walk in the light that this story shines. In Jesus' name. Amen.


Other Sermons in This Series

Isaiah 1-66

April 06, 2003

Isaiah 1-66

Isaiah 1:1-66:24

Andy Davis

Book Overviews, The Kingdom of Christ