Ruth & Boaz (6.20.20)
Grab your Bibles and let’s go deeper into the book of Ruth.
I love the book of Ruth for several reasons. It’s a story for people who wonder where God is when there are no answers or clarity on the horizon. It’s for people who wonder where God is when one tragedy after another attacks their faith. It’s a story for people who wonder whether a life of integrity in tough times is worth it. And, it’s a story for people who can’t imagine that anything great could ever come of their ordinary lives.
Ruth 1:1-2 In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, … The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion.
The first observation to be made here is that Bethlehem means “House of Bread.” Surely there is a subtle irony here that, in the “House of Bread,” people were starving to death due to a famine. What is interesting here is Moab is only about 50 miles away, yet they are not experiencing famine. So, this gives us a picture that, indeed, God’s hand is causing famine in the land of His people, in Bethlehem, because just 50 miles away they are eating and living just fine.
What we know is, during this time, the people of God were surely being disobedient as they were openly practicing a wide variety of blatant sin. If we look to the rest of Scripture, we see that, most often, famine is the result of the people’s disobedience to God. God uses famine to strip the people of their pride and rebellion in order to draw them to trust in Him again.
In Elimelech, we see a common error that we men can often make. Elimelech is asking himself, “Do I stay here and have my family possibly suffer and die, or do I go find a job in a new town where we will be foreigners, but are more likely to prosper and be fed?” The problem is that God specifically instructed His people not to dwell amongst the Moabites. In Genesis 19, we see that Lot had sex with his daughter and they gave birth to a son whom they named Moab. From Moab came the Moabite people who were an incestuous people that worshiped other false gods. Elimelech makes the tragic decision to move his family to a place where there are no God-centered people groups (churches) by which they could fellowship and worship the God of Israel.
In verse 2, we see that the father’s name is Elimelech which means “my God is King.” Here is a second, subtle irony because Elimelech’s decisions show very little faith in God as King. Instead, Elimelech chooses to make his own prosperity and future by going against God’s wishes concerning Moab.
Ruth 1:3 But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons.
Why did Elimelech move to Moab? Answer: So that he could avoid death. He leaves the place where they had little to eat and goes to a place where they could eat well. He gets there and what happens? Answer: He dies.
What can we take from this? God is supreme over all things—including death. The circumstances of a more prosperous life in Moab meant he should have thrived, but instead he died. Don’t miss this important truth of life. It is not the circumstances of our lives that determine life’s outcome—it is God, because He is sovereign.
Now that Elimelech is dead, let’s turn our eyes to the suffering of Naomi, his wife, around whom this chapter really centers.
Ruth 1:3-4 … she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years
Naomi’s two sons are the ones charged with carrying on the family name and heritage, so her hope is now in them; but as we read in verse 5:
Ruth 1:5 and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.
Ten years later, not just one, but both of her sons die. Naomi’s suffering has reached a new high. She has not only lost the love of her life, she has been living in a foreign land amongst strangers for ten years, only to lose both of her sons.
What is extra-tragic about this is that couples in that day would not wait to have children. This means she was also a Grandma-in-waiting for some grandbabies for ten years. This means God was not allowing them to conceive, and now that both sons are dead so is her legacy, having her family name continue. Her misery and suffering are at max!
In verse 6, we read that Naomi gets word that “the Lord has visited his people and given them food.” So, she decides to return to Judah. Her two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, go with her partway it seems, but then in verses 8–13, she tries to persuade them to go back home.
Ruth 1:11 But Naomi said, “Turn back my daughters, why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? Turn back, my daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have a husband.”
In other words, Naomi has nothing to offer them. Her condition is worse than theirs. If they try to be faithful to her and to the name of their dead husbands, they will find nothing but pain, she concludes at the end of verse 13:
Ruth 1:13 “… No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone forth against me.”
She is saying, “Don’t come with me, because God has gone forth against me and your life may be as bitter as mine.”
Looking further at Ruth 1:14-18, notice the faithfulness of a young woman in the middle of all of this suffering and tragedy. Ruth’s faithfulness to Naomi is amazing, especially after Naomi’s grim description of their future with her. Ruth stays with her in spite of an apparently hopeless future of widowhood and childlessness. Naomi has painted the future black and Ruth has taken her hand and has walked into it with her.
The amazing words of Ruth are found in 1:16–17: …“Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you; for where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”
Ruth teaches us that if you trust the sovereign goodness and mercy of God to pursue you all the days of your life, then you can be free and full of faith and hope like Ruth. If God calls, you can leave family; you can leave your job; you can leave your home; you can make radical commitments and undertake new ventures; you can find the freedom and courage and strength to keep a commitment you have already made.
We must glean from this today: when you believe in the sovereignty of God and that He loves to work mightily for those who trust Him, it gives a freedom and joy that can’t be shaken by hard times.
Ruth 1:19-21 So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”
What do you think of Naomi’s theology here, specifically, her view of God? I believe that she is right-on about how she sees God in her hardships! Naomi is unshaken and sure about three things: God exists. God is sovereign. God has afflicted her.
Naomi is right to believe in a sovereign, almighty God who governs the affairs of nations and families and gives each day its part of pain and pleasure. Psalm 34:19 says, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”
Hear this today: neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament promises that believers will escape affliction in this life, for God in His sovereignty uses suffering to do eternal things in the lives of people and ultimately carries out His purposes for His glory!
The Scriptures say that God disciplines those whom He loves, but it is not His anger or wrath! He might be disciplining you and/or shaping and sanctifying you for your good and His glory—there is a big difference.
Do you realize that the suffering you might be in right now could be God, in His mercy, frustrating you and even causing you to suffer greatly for the purpose of drawing you to Him?!
If our ultimate satisfaction is found in God and not in our stuff or status in this life, then it is His mercy, because when He frustrates my stuff and status in this life with suffering, it causes me to re-center my affections on Him. I purposefully left out the last verse, Ruth 1:22: So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.
In Chapter 2, the mercy of God breaks through bright enough for even Naomi to see it.
We meet Boaz, a man of wealth, a man of God, and a relative of Naomi’s husband.
We see Ruth taking refuge under the wings of God in a foreign land and being led mercifully, by God, to the field of Boaz to find work. As a result, we see Naomi respond positively to God’s hand (2:20): “… the Lord, whose kindness (Hessed) has not forsaken the living or the dead! …”
In Chapter 3, we see the barley season coming to an end. There is much to celebrate as God has delivered His people from famine. But this also means that the temporary work Ruth has found laboring for Boaz is coming to an end, and there is more important business Naomi and Ruth must tend to, which is, primarily, to get Ruth a husband who is a kinsman to Naomi’s family so that Naomi’s family name can carry on and she and Ruth can be cared for.
In the closing chapter, Boaz is faithful to go out and find the potential husband first thing in the morning. He arranges to speak with ten elders in the city. He tells the other kinsman that Naomi is looking to sell some land that belonged to her husband, but that the property comes with Ruth becoming the kinsman’s wife. This will mean that he’ll also have to get her pregnant with a child that will be raised as Mahlon’s. This is not intriguing to the kinsman, so it is passed to Boaz. Ruth and Boaz tie the knot and then have a son together. His name is Obed. The book of Ruth concludes by saying that Obed became the father of Jesse who was the father of King David.
Why is all of this important?
This is important, because God, in His sovereignty, was making a way, the entire time, for the royal line of the promised redeemer to continue through Ruth and Boaz to Obed, to Jesse, to King David, and all the way to Jesus.
This is huge! Our hope, our life, and our redemption come through the kinsman redeemer Boaz in order to ultimately get to the kinsman Redeemer, Jesus! Praise God for His steadfast love to provide for us a salvation from our deserved, eternal suffering.
May we rest in Him in our suffering. May we have enduring faith despite our bleak circumstances and stay steadfast in the Lord in all things so that those who do not know the hope we have in Christ may see it, be saved by God’s grace, and know it with us.
By His grace and for His glory,
Pastor Joshua Kirstine