Ruth 4:13-17 - Pain is never the final word for the people of God

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Naomi’s story is coming full circle
Family is so important
We know this, and the Bible constantly reaffirms it
God cares deeply about families; moms, dads, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, grand parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, clans, tribes
Naomi’s family had died, and that was the tragic introduction to this book
For Naomi, this meant that her future was dead and she had no hope
Have you ever felt like that?
As we wrap this story up, we see the story come full circle, right back to the issue of family
Last week, we saw how Boaz redeemed Ruth and Naomi, which meant that he bought back Naomi’s dead husbands land and married Ruth

I. Ruth’s miraculous conception

Ruth 4:13 ESV
13 So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son.
In one verse, Boaz marries Ruth, she conceives, and then she bears a son
What is the theological significance of God “giving her conception?”
When Boaz committed to redeeming Ruth in the decision at the town gate earlier in Ruth 4, the people of the town as well as the elders had pronounced a blessing on Ruth:
Ruth 4:11
Ruth 4:11 ESV
11 Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem,
God giving Ruth conception is exactly reminiscent of Leah and Rachel, both of whom were barren until God gave them conception
Genesis 29:31-32
Genesis 29:31–32 ESV
31 When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. 32 And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she said, “Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.”
Genesis 30:22-24
Genesis 30:22–24 ESV
22 Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb. 23 She conceived and bore a son and said, “God has taken away my reproach.” 24 And she called his name Joseph, saying, “May the Lord add to me another son!”
To be childless in ancient Israel was a disgrace, and to be fruitful was seen as a sign of God’s blessing
This is only the second time in the entire story of Ruth where God is the subject of a verb
In other words, God is only pictured as directly acting twice in the book of Ruth; the rest of the time, as we have been seeing, we are to infer God’s action in more subtle ways through a variety of means
The only other time in the story where we see God’s direct action is in Ruth 1:6, where we learn that “God had visited his people to give them food.”
This was right at the beginning of the story of Ruth, and we saw how God’s direct action to give bread to his people stood in stark contrast to the famine that had caused Naomi’s family to flee to Moab.
Here we see that God gives conception to Ruth, and this stands in stark contrast to her ten year marriage to Mahlon that bore no children
By all accounts, it seems that Ruth had been barren until conceiving a son through God’s gracious gift
Both of these stories illustrate God’s sovereignty and gracious provision
He was ultimately in charge of the famine and was thus able to end it
He was ultimately in charge of Ruth’s barrenness and was thus able to end it
God is sovereign over all circumstances; ones that we deem “good” and ones that we deem “bad”
This immediately causes a question: why let Ruth endure ten years of barrenness in marriage only to give her a son through Boaz?
This is a difficult circumstance, one that we will be working at both this week and next week
For now:
God is at work in all circumstances, even painful ones, to bring about his good sovereign purposes
Sometimes God allows us to endure painful times
God allowed Naomi to experience the death of her husband and her sons
God allowed Ruth to experience ten years of barrenness and childlessness
Do you think that’s right? Do you think that’s fair? Do you think Naomi and Ruth ever wondered, “if God loves us why would he ________?”
This is difficult teaching for us because it challenges us to try to think in ways that we don’t think
We often think, “if God really loved me, then he would ________ or he wouldn’t _________”
But what we are really saying when we go there is “surely God wouldn’t do anything that I wouldn’t do” - which is to say, we believe that God should be bound to our understanding, to our sensibilities, to our perspectives of what does and doesn’t constitute love
Is it possible that God, in his love for you, would do or permit something that you can’t immediately understand?
Is it possible that God might withhold something from you that you deeply want in order to give you what you need?
These are tough questions, and I think continuing will give us a better idea of how to start to answer them. As Ruth’s conception demonstrates,
Pain is never the final word for God’s people
You may be going through an unbelievably difficult time and wondering where God is in all of it
It’s ok for you to wonder that
Let me gently say to you: for the people of God, pain and sorrow is NEVER the final word
He is always at work for our ultimate good.
This was the case for Naomi, and it is certainly the case for us.

II. God’s provision for Naomi’s well being

Ruth 4:14–16 ESV
14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! 15 He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” 16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse.
Upon Ruth’s conception and bearing of a son, the women of Bethlehem spontaneously break into praise of God and blessing on Naomi.
These women rightly see God’s providential love in Ruth’s pregnancy, they see how that will in fact provide a blessing to Naomi, and they praise God for it.
Do you praise God for the way he works in people’s lives? Do you praise God for the way that he is at working providing for others?
Sometimes it can be hard to recognize and praise God for his work in other people’s lives
We at times carry a bit of jealousy where we almost wish God would provide for us or work in our lives how we see him working in others
This is particularly true if we are struggling or in difficulty ourselves
Why did that other person find a job but I can’t?
It sure is nice that they found romance and marriage, why can’t I?
They have been blessed, why haven’t I?
If left unchecked, this will turn into an inability to celebrate good that happens to other people because we will constantly be bitter that we have not been as fortunate, we have not been blessed in the same way, we do not see God’s providence in our life as we see his grace in theirs
In any event, the women of Bethlehem respond to God’s goodness toward Ruth by praising him and then blessing Naomi
They rightly point out that God has not "permitted Naomi to be without a redeemer”
At first glance, we may perhaps think that when they are saying “redeemer,” they are meaning Boaz. But that’s not who they are talking about: They are talking about Ruth’s son.
They don’t mean that Ruth’s son will perform the legal requirements of a redeemer as laid out in the Torah and as Forrest talked about last week
But they see that the birth of this little baby boy is going to serve as an incredible blessing for Naomi
The last time the women of Bethlehem were talking to Naomi, they were hearing from her, Ruth 1:20-21
The women of Bethlehem did not answer Naomi then, but they do now: “Naomi, God has not allowed you to go without - he has not left you without a redeemer.”
There does come a time to point out God’s unrelenting faithfulness no matter our circumstances; that time is not necessarily right as a person comes into a crisis situation
It’s good to remind each other of God’s unrelenting faithfulness
But be careful how much theology you drop on someone in the midst of pain and crisis
The time will come to share with one another and to spur each other on with theological truth, but that moment is often not right in the midst of someone’s pain
More helpful in the midst of a person’s pain is to encourage, love, sit with, cry with, lament with
At this point, what joy these women had to finally help Naomi see God’s good purposes in her life!
The women point out really two ways in which God’s faithfulness had not ever forsaken Naomi
First, she has a daughter in law who loves her, who is more to her than seven sons
This is a kind and gentle way to say in the midst of the loss of her sons, God had been at work providing her with a daughter in law who God would use to richly bless her
Second, they see Ruth’s son as God’s providence at work for Naomi’s joy and good
They say he will be a “restorer of life”
The word is to return - God will use him to return life to Naomi
God is transforming her life - she was a bitter old hopeless woman, in her own estimation on death’s door, and God through this little baby boy is breathing life back into her
God often uses kids to breathe life into people, communities, churches
Kids make a family a family
Illustration: Kelsey and I went from a “couple” to a “family” when we got Nora in 2014 (our dog)
Even this beast had the effect of bringing another dimension and joy of life into our home
But then 15 months ago we brought Gwendolyn Ruth into our home and the Lord has used her to breathe such life and joy into our lives
She laughs at the simplest things; she is constantly busy and moving and doing and thriving and growing
Children are a sign of life and vibrancy, not of nuisance and annoyance
When babies cry during the service, when we find broken things in the building from kids playing a bit too hard, that’s not an inconvenience or annoyance; it’s a sign of life that we ought to thank God for
Illustration: NERF darts in the sanctuary
When I was a youth pastor we used to have epic games of “humans vs. zombies” throughout the whole church building where I worked
Humans had nerf guns, and they could stun the zombies with nerf darts, but if they got tagged they had to trade their nerf gun in for a headband and go try to tag other kids to make them zombies
Some folks in the church would get SO MAD if they found stray nerf darts in the sanctuary (under the pews, in the cracks of the seats, etc)
But my thought was always, “man, you guys, you know that all this is is a sign that middle school kids have tons of fun in this place”
Kids are signs of life and thriving
They say he will be a “sustainer of your grey hairs (old age)”
Naomi had been working to provide for Ruth’s future security and provision through marriage
And now the women of Bethlehem see that God will use this boy to provide that very security to Naomi!
Kids are a symbol of God’s grace and hope for the future
They literally provide hope for the future for the day when we need support and help as we age
They are a symbol of bright hope for the future because new life spits in the face of death and gives us hope that humanity is not spent, that God has not forsaken us, that we have a future
They provide hope that our church will not die with this generation because God will continue to raise up future generations
So Naomi takes this little boy and lays him on her lap, and she becomes his nurse
At this point, I want to return to a statement I made toward the beginning:

III. Pain is not the final word

Ruth 4:17 ESV
17 And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.
The women of the neighborhood name this little boy, and they say this very interesting statement: “A son has been born to Naomi”
Not to Ruth, not to Boaz; to Naomi
This is a way of coming full circle in this story
Naomi had lost her two sons in the beginning of Ruth, and the women are now making a profound statement: that pain was not the final word in Naomi’s story
God had provided Ruth, who was “more to her than ten sons”
God has now provided her a son
Meaning, God was at work in ways that Naomi never could have imagined in order to provide for her in ways she would never dream
She could never have imagined the kind of tenacious, relentless love that her daughter in law Ruth would have for her
She could never have imagined that she would ever have the joy of a son, a baby boy, again
Naomi at one point thought her life was over, and now with only three words (in Hebrew, that is), these women declare that pain was not the final word in Naomi’s story
God gave Naomi a son, and by doing so demonstrated that her sorrow was not the end of the road for her
As we go through unbelievably difficult times, I think this is worth considering
In the midst of your deepest, darkest sorrow, God is at work in ways that you can not presently imagine to bring about good for you that you cannot possibly dream of
There are places your story is going that you could never come up with on your own, and that you would never arrive at had you not gone through what you are right now going through
As God breathed life into Naomi and gave her hope for a future through a son, so he breathes life into us and gives us hope for our future by a different son; his son
By the death of Jesus on the cross in our place, our sin is forgiven and we are adopted into God’s family as sons and daughters
This means that we are more than the mistakes of our past, we are more than the pain of our circumstances, and we have hope for our future beyond anything we can imagine
When Jesus died, his disciples were crushed, and they certainly thought their sorrow in that moment to be the final word
But when Jesus was raised from the dead, he proved once and for all that pain, sorrow and even death itself is not the final word for the people of God
So as we near the end of the story of Ruth, let us celebrate and rejoice in the hope we have in Jesus, the son of God
Through Jesus, God breathes true life into us and infuses dead, hopeless things with life
Through Jesus, God gives us true hope for our future
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