Ruth - Week 4

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Great Women of the Bible
Week 3
Ruth (All Scripture is New Living Translation)
Good morning and welcome to worship on this amazing day that the Lord has made!
Today, we are in week 3 of our Great Women of the Bible series. I have to admit, I am having so much fun with this series. And, the more I dig in, the more I realize that there is no shortage of material for this series.
Looking back, we started with the often overlooked story of Abigail, who became the wife of soon to be King David. But stepping out of Chronology, we went back a few generations last week and talked about Deborah, one of the Judges we read about in the book of Judges, and Jael – just a common lady with incredible courage and amazing skills with a hammer and tent stake.
In the weeks ahead we will look at Queen Ester, and the Mary’s of the New Testament. But today, we are going to look at Ruth. So, turn with me in your Bible’s to the book of Ruth.
There are so many directions we can go as we consider the story of Ruth.
We can compare Ruth the Moabite to the Good Samaritan – an outcast who becomes the champion of the story.
We could look at the redemptions of Naomi and the future generations. After all, the word Redemption or its derivative is used 23 times in this short book.
We could consider how honorable Boaz was as he cared for and redeemed Naomi through Ruth.
We can imagine ourselves in the story – making sure that we realize that more often than not, we are Naomi, but hope to someday be Ruth, who gave up everything forever to accept Naomi’s people and more importantly, Naomi’s God.
We will hit on each of these in one way or another as we consider the story of Ruth and Naomi.
Once again, this is a two for one story, and maybe even a three for one.
We are going to look at the entire story as it is portrayed in the 4 chapters and 85 verses. Don’t worry, we won’t read it all, but we will hear the story.
But first, let’s open with a prayer.
Turn with me to Ruth 1:1-5
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. 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.
Then Elimelech died, and Naomi was left with her two sons. The two sons married Moabite women. One married a woman named Orpah, and the other a woman named Ruth. But about ten years later, both Mahlon and Kilion died. This left Naomi alone, without her two sons or her husband.
OK, this is about as sad a beginning of a story as I can imagine. Naomi and Elimelech head off on an adventure with their two sons, sickly and dying – that’s an actual translation of the boys names… so, I’m not really sure that’s their real names, but I digress. This family of 4 headed off to Moab in search of food to survive the famine. Then Elimelech dies, the boys marry – like most men, it looks like they married up – then the boys die too, leaving the three women to grieve together the loss of their loved ones.
Then, Naomi receives word that the famine is over and she prepares to return home, but the women follow her. I’m sure it was a touching moment as Naomi encourages the women to return to their families, and Orpah does. (If you look at that and think it looks like Oprah, you are right. She was actually named Orpah, but after the birth certificate, everyone called her Oprah… but, that’s not the point of the story.)
So, Orpah goes back to her people and her gods of the Moabites, but not Ruth…
Ruth 1:16-18
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. 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!” When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she said nothing more.
Ruth gave up everything. She had no future with Naomi. She had no people if she went with Naomi… it would be like the Stephenville football coach moving to Brownwood without a job. Or so Naomi would think.
The rest of the chapter shares how Naomi returned to Bethlehem with Ruth and the people rejoiced, but Naomi – whose name means “lovely” or “Delightful” tells them not to call her by her name because her life has been destroyed… she wanted to be called “mara” which means “bitter” or “desperate.”
Chapter 2 begins by introducing new characters to the story and Ruth’s desire to help Naomi and herself survive. Then Ruth goes out into the fields to glean the leftovers. You see, in the land of the people of Israel, it was proper for the owner of a field to allow widows and orphans to work behind the workers and pick up the scraps. It was like welfare if you will. Now, not everyone followed this custom and some would chase the widows and orphans out of the field while others would harass them until they left, so, there’s always a chance that you will be kicked out.
So, Ruth comes to this field and does as the customs allow and goes to the field behind where the workers are present and works all day. When the owner of the field arrives, he is greeted by the workers and he offers a blessing back to them. This owner, named Boaz, then asks about the young lady gleaning in the field. He discovers she was married to a relative and is the daughter in law of Naomi. Their situation is well known among the people of Bethlehem. Once he knows that there is no man in her life, he approaches her and invites her to not only glean the leftovers, but to come and glean from around the sheaves. He then tells his workers to “accidentally” leave a little extra behind. When it’s time to eat, he invites Ruth to eat with his own workers.
When the day of work is done, Ruth has an entire basket of grain, along with the leftovers from the meal Boaz provided. When Naomi asks where she gleaned, she said it was in the field of a man named Boaz, and Naomi replies,
Ruth 2:20-23
“May the LORD bless him!” Naomi told her daughter-in-law. “He is showing his kindness to us as well as to your dead husband. That man is one of our closest relatives, one of our family redeemers.”
Then Ruth said, “What’s more, Boaz even told me to come back and stay with his harvesters until the entire harvest is completed.”
“Good!” Naomi exclaimed. “Do as he said, my daughter. Stay with his young women right through the whole harvest. You might be harassed in other fields, but you’ll be safe with him.”
So Ruth worked alongside the women in Boaz’s fields and gathered grain with them until the end of the barley harvest. Then she continued working with them through the wheat harvest in early summer. And all the while she lived with her mother-in-law.
This goes on for a while, then Naomi hatches a plan. I mean, Ruth can’t live with Naomi forever, so she needs a man… and not any man, she needs a redeemer.
Let’s pause there for a moment. What about this word Redeemer. It’s kind of a churchy word. Not something you usually use outside of church, or is it?
Did anyone find anything odd in their hymnal?
Yep, who doesn’t like a Sonic Gift Card. And, what do you do with a gift card – you redeem it.
I know some of you are more familiar with this than others… but who remembers S&H Green Stamps?
You could redeem them for housewares, kitchen appliances, camping gear, musical instruments, toys… you name it. The stamps themselves were useless until they had a redeemer.
Just like that gift card has value, but it takes a redeemer to recognize that value. Hold that thought, we’ll come back to the idea of redemption.
Back to the story of Ruth and Naomi. So, we know that Boaz is a close family member. Which means, according to the customs of the time, he could marry a widow of his family and allow the widows husbands name to continue with the first-born son in the family. Naomi tells Ruth how to go to Boaz at the party at the end of the harvest, conceal her identity until he has had his fill of food and drink and has fallen asleep, then uncover his feet – this is a euphemism with many meanings and scholars much smarter than me have debated the full meaning of what happens here… but the end result is, Ruth spends the night with Boaz on the threshing floor and Boaz promises to do what he can to make sure that he is able to redeem her… in other words, he really likes her, but another man is in the family line to do what needs to be done and he’s got to deal with all those issues before she can become his wife.
And now, Chapter 4, the final chapter in the story of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz.
Boaz has to work some magic here. He goes to the town gate where all the business deals of the day are transacted, and he meets the other redeemer. You know what his name is? Neither do I. He is so important in the story that he is referred to basically as – “the other guy.” So, Boaz meets with him and tells him that Naomi needs to sell some land and since he’s the first in line for the land, he gets first dibs… and the other guy says, “sure, I’ll take the land.” And then Boaz let’s the rest of the story drop… “Well, you know, if you buy the land, it comes with Ruth, a Moabite widow of Elimelech’s son… so the first born of your marriage with her will actually get the land and it will revert back to that family.” So the other guy says, “That’s a little more than I bargained for… why don’t YOU redeem the land and get stuck with a Moabite wife.”
And the deal is done. Boaz gets the beautiful and honorable wife that he has come to know, love, and care for… they get married, they have a son… or as the story unfolds in verse 13:
Ruth 4:13-17
So Boaz took Ruth into his home, and she became his wife. When he slept with her, the LORD enabled her to become pregnant, and she gave birth to a son. Then the women of the town said to Naomi, “Praise the LORD, who has now provided a redeemer for your family! May this child be famous in Israel. May he restore your youth and care for you in your old age. For he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves you and has been better to you than seven sons!”
Naomi took the baby and cuddled him to her breast. And she cared for him as if he were her own. The neighbor women said, “Now at last Naomi has a son again!” And they named him Obed. He became the father of Jesse and the grandfather of David.
Ruth the Moabite gives birth to the grandfather of David. Ruth, the nobody from nowhere… the one who gave up everything out of her love for her mother-in-law, is the great-grandmother of King David.
This wasn’t supposed to happen… Moabites weren’t to be part of the lineage of Israelite kings… Deuteronomy 23:3 even said that a Moabite shouldn’t be allowed in the assembly of the Lord, and yet she is the great-grandmother of the one who follows after God’s own heart.
But, before we make some point about race not mattering, or how people can change, or how God works in mysterious ways, let’s jump a little farther ahead in the story of God’s people,
Matthew 1:2-6a
Abraham was the father of Isaac.
Isaac was the father of Jacob.
Jacob was the father of Judah and his brothers.
Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (whose mother was Tamar).
Wow, look at that, a female named in the lineage of Jesus. So, who is Tamar, she was actually the daughter-in-law of Judah, but when his son’s who had been married to her died, he refused to give her a husband, so she tricked him into doing the honorable thing… and then they got married and later had twins. You can read the rest of that story in Genesis 38 – we won’t get into that one today.
So, back to the lineage…
Perez was the father of Hezron.
Hezron was the father of Ram.
Ram was the father of Amminadab.
Amminadab was the father of Nahshon.
Nahshon was the father of Salmon.
Salmon was the father of Boaz (whose mother was Rahab).
Oooo, another woman, so who is she? Who is the mother of Boaz, the wife of Salmon? Well, Rahab was a Canaanite resident of Jericho who welcomed the spies in… now, not only was she a resident, she was a harlot – a prostitute… and she welcomed them in, not for what they could give her financially, but for what she could do for them and their God. She hid them, gave them information, and gave them a way out of the city and back in, and because of that she was spared and became the wife of one of the Israelite men.
Then, we get to Boaz, and Obed, and then Jesse and David.
Now, what makes this story so remarkable isn’t just that A rejected widow, a Moabite, and a prostitute are within the lineage of King David… it is that they are recognized as being in the lineage of King Jesus.
Before Mary, the mother of Jesus, there are only 4 other women who were honored with being mentioned in the lineage of Jesus… A rejected widow, and outsider, a prostitute, and Bathsheba – the one with whom David committed adultery.
So, what does that mean for you and me?
For one thing, it means that Jesus’ family reunions were a lot like ours- complete with Cousin Earl, aunt Wilma, and the whole cast of Zany characters.
But more than that…
It means there is hope for us all.
It means that, if God can use a rejected widow, a prostitute, a foreigner, and an adulterer to be part of the redemption of humanity, then certainly God can use you to make an impact on the world around you.
It means that your past doesn’t define you. It means that who you were is not nearly as important as who God is creating you to be.
It means that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. God can take that past and reframe it and reuse it. God, through Jesus Christ, can and will take what is broken and make it whole again… the lost can be found and the dead can live again!
in other words we have a redeemer and his name is Jesus.
If you do not know him. If you have not accepted his free gift of redemption, of salvation, of the forgiveness of sin and the future of hope… then I pray that today will be the day you take that step. I will be waiting for you at the back after the service.
Would you pray
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