Ruth Sermon 3 - The Voyage Home

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Ruth – The Voyage Home
Ruth 1:6-14
Ruth 1:6–14 ESV
6 Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the Lord had visited his people and given them food. 7 So she set out from the place where she was with her two daughters-in-law, and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. 8 But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9 The Lord grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. 10 And they said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” 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? 12 Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, 13 would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.” 14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
1. Introduction – if you were with us last week or caught on Youtube…You’ll remember that we saw a family marred by crisis.
a. Famine…Elimelech died…Mahlon and Chilion’s marriages were devasted by infertility for 10 years…
i. Then those 2 men died…leaving 3 widows and no male heirs to care for them in a male-dominated world.
1. But at the end of last week’s sermon we saw a glimmer of hope for this family.
a. God visited his people. Not visited as in he was away from a while…but instead of visiting them with covenant curses, God was now pouring out blessings.
ii. And we saw last week that if God was once against pouring out covenant blessings on his people, it meant that his people had returned to him and repented of their waywardness.
1. Remember the story of Naomi and Ruth and Boaz takes place during the time when the judges ruled in Israel.
a. And when the judges ruled, the people did what was right in their own eyes.
i. There’s a repeated cycle in the book.
1. Disobedience, covenant cursings, repentance, restoration and blessing.
iii. So, if God once against gave his people good, they were in the repentance and restoration phase of this cycle.
1. And today…our main character is faced with a decision.
a. She’s heard there’s good in Bethlehem. She is a foreign widow, living in a land that isn’t known for its hospitality. She has 2 daughters in law with her…
i. Does she stay in Moab and eek out an existence?
1. Or does she return to Bethlehem? Return to her people and see what God has in store for her there?
iv. And what does she do about Orpah and Ruth? Hear God’s Word Ruth 1:6-14.
b. We just read a very important paragraph…here’s why.
i. In Hebrew narrative – characters are developed not so much by what they do, but by what they say.
1. So here is the first dialogue of this story. In it, we find out about Naomi. In fact, most of this book is dialogue.
a. The narrator of the story rarely interjects…the story is told and the plot moves along through the dialogue of its characters.
c. So here’s what we’re going to do today.
i. I want us to take note of the structure of this paragraph. Notice that Naomi makes a speech and the Moabite women respond to her speech.
1. Naomi makes another speech, and against the Moabites respond to it…but with different reactions.
a. So today, we’ll look at this repeated pattern. We’ll look at what Naomi said and who the women responded
i. And we’ll close by looking at why Naomi said what she did…and how we should view hard times in our lives.
2. Dialogue 1 – Naomi caught wind of God blessing Israel while she was out working the fields in Moab.
a. That meant Naomi had a choice to make – stay in Moab and most like die alone or return to Bethlehem and eek out an existence and maybe have someone show her some charity.
i. Naomi’s choice was to return to Bethlehem – and at first it looks like she is gong to bring Orpah and Ruth with her…that is, until she makes her first speech.
1. Naomi begins…while they are on the road by the way. It would have been an emotional time – packing up – Ruth and Orpah saying goodbye to family, to neighbours and friends.
a. But while they are on their journey, Naomi stops and says this.
i. “Return each of you to your mother’s house.”
1. I’ll stop right there, because that’s an unusual reference.
2. In the Bible, a widow is usually instructed to return to her father’s house…so why does Naomi here mention their mother’s house?
a. There’s a simply answer to that question – it’s a contrast that Naomi seeks to make.
i. A widow should return to her mother’s house…and not stay with her mother-in-law – especially when her mother-in-law is moving to a new country.
1. By moving, and bringing Ruth and Orpah with her, Naomi is forcing them to live the same existence that Naomi did in Moab…a widow in a foreign land.
b. Naomi tells them to return – and then she speaks a blessing over them – the first of many blessings recorded in this book.
i. “May the Lord deal kindly with you…” Naomi’s blessing starts.
1. First off…notice that Naomi invokes God’s covenant name.,
a. Whenever we see God’s name written this way – LORD – that is translating God’s covenant name – YHWH.
i. It is his personal name – and his personal name indicates his character.
1. God – who is the actively existing one. God, who comes to meet his people.
a. God – who sets his people free by the action of a redeemer.
ii. And when Naomi tries to part company with her daughters in law, she invokes the name of YHWH, not Chermosh, the Moabite god, but YHWH, her God, Israel’s God – I am…the active and existing one.
1. “May YHWH deal kindly with you, as you have dealt kindly to the dead and to me.”
a. Alright – there it is…did you hear it? It’s the first mention of my favourite Hebrew word – hesed.
i. Naomi said – may the Lord deal kindly…may the Lord pour out his hesed on you.
1. His unfailing and steadfast love…the kind of love that never lets his people go.
2. The same kindness that Orpah and Ruth showed to Naomi…and to their deceased husbands.
a. When Mahlon and Chilion died – they could have immediately returned to their father’s house…
i. There ere no children involved – so Orpah and Ruth were not tied to Naomi at al.
1. But they stayed with her. They helped provide for her and cared for her.
3. They showed hesed towards Naomi – and now Naomi is asking YHWH to shower them with his hesed.
a. She also wishes the Lord to bless them with safety and security and peace in the house of a new husband.
i. As we learned last time – the life of a widow in those days was rough.
1. And Naomi wants her girls to find new husbands so they don’t have to have the same existence she has.
c. How do Orpah and Ruth respond to Naomi’s request and blessing?
i. First, they weep at the thought of leaving Naomi.
1. But then they state that they aren’t leaving her alone. They are going with her…wherever she goes.
a. And for reasons we’ll explore in a bit – Naomi isn’t satisfied with this.
i. She doesn’t want these girls to have the same life she is living.
1. She wants something better for them.
ii. So – she speaks again, and this time makes and airtight argument as to why Ruth and Orpah should stay in Moab.
1. Again, we’ll see that first Naomi speaks…and then Ruth and Orpah respond.
3. Dialogue 2 – in this part of the dialogue, Naomi appeals to an OT law called the levirate marrage.
a. And for an explanation of this law – lets go back toe the book of Deuteronomy.
i. If we understand this law, we’ll understand the thrust of Naomi’s argument.
b. So the levirate marriage…what is it? Well, in Deuteronomy 25:5-10, Moses describes a law that is put into place to make sure that a man’s name isn’t erased from Israel’s history.
i. The scenario is this – if a man marries a woman, but dies before producing a male heir…the widow is not to marry outside the family.
1. But the deceased’s younger brother is to marry her…and produce a son on behalf of his dead brother.
a. And that son would be counted as the deceased’s offspring – thus carrying on his name in Israel.
i. So with that background – hear what Naomi says to these women.
c. In the previous speech – Naomi releases Ruth and Orpah from this law – and here in this second speech she spells out why.
i. Naomi has no other sons to give. There is no younger brother in this scenario.
1. She only had 2…and they both died childless.
a. Even though they are weeping – even though they’ve been together for at least 10 years…Naomi attempts to send them away so they can find peace, happiness and security elsewhere.
i. Look at her arguments.
ii. She has no other son to give to one of them in marriage…let alone 2 to fulfill the levirate law.
1. But Naomi goes on – I don’t even have a husband, she says.
a. But she goes further…there’s no hope even if he did have a husband…meaning she is past her child-bearing years.
i. And then her argument switches from the physical limitations of her body to a time-based argument.
2. Naomi says this – even if she did have a husband and even if she conceived a son that very night…would Ruth and Orpah really wait that long for this child to grow up, become and man and be an acceptable marriable age?
a. Would they really put their lives on hold for 15 or so years, just to keep the levirate marriage law?
i. Probably by that time, they would also be passed their child bearing years.
d. This dialogue provoked a response from the Moabite women…actually 2 different responses.
i. For Orpah, it convinced her to leave Naomi and return to her mother’s house…to return to her country and presumably to the god of her land.
1. She was unwilling to live a lonely existence with Naomi and Ruth…so, as hard as it was, she turned back to Moab…and we never hear of her again.
a. But Ruth, the text says, Ruth clung to her…and next week we are gong to study Ruth’s answer.
i. It’s an amazing speech and we’ll learn about Ruth’s character in her first speech next week.
ii. Naomi’s argument had convinced one to return home…but her speech seemed to strengthen Ruth’s resolve to go with Naomi back to Bethlehem.
4. Response to Tragedy – this whole scene begs the question – why did Naomi respond this way?
a. Why did she stop on the road and twice convince Orpah and Ruth to turn back?
i. Well, the text answers this question for us – v.13. It is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.
1. Here’s what that means. Naomi thought that God has no grievance against Ruth or Orpah – rather they were being unavoidably affected by God pouring out his disfavour on their mother in law.
a. Naomi is telling Orpah and Ruth to distance themselves from her let they continue to experience God’s disfavour because of their association with this spiritual pariah.
i. This tells us that Naomi viewed all that has happened to her as punishment from God.
1. The famine, Elimelech’s death, her son’s infertility…her sons’ death…all of it was God’s bitter hand of judgment on her.
b. So, is this the case? When bad things happen in life…is God punishing us?
i. Or is it a case of God doing something bigger and unexpected in our lives?
1. So let’s think about this? When bad things happen, is it because God is punishing for our sin?
c. Well, think about Job – like Naomi, we can’t minimize Job’s loss.
i. His servants died, his property stolen, his children died in a natural disaster. His health failed him and he suffered unrelieved pain.
1. His friends told him he was being punished by God for his sins, they told him to confess and repent and everything would get better.
a. But the narrator of Job tells us that Job did not sin by charging God with wrong doing and he did not sin in what he said.
i. So, was Job being punished, or was God up to something much bigger?
ii. Think of Jesus’ encounter with the man born blind in John 9.
1. The disciples asked, “who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born this way?
a. The assumption being that his blindness was a result of sin.
i. But do you remember what Jesus said? Jesus responded, saying – not sin – sin wasn’t the cause of this man’s blindness.
1. This man was born blind so that the mighty works of God could be displayed in him.
iii. Or think of Paul – when we studied 2 Corinthians, Paul listed in detail the afflictions he endured as a minister of God’s Word.
1. And do you remember what Paul called them? 2 Cor. 4:17.
a. These light, momentary afflictions are preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all compare. As we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.
d. So, let’s not minimize Naomi’s sufferings, however, let’s recognize that she had an improper view of what was going on.
i. The text never tells us that God is angry with Naomi or that he is punishing her.
1. She was mistaken to measure God’s goodness by her level of happiness and her immediate circumstances.
a. In fact, Naomi was ruled by her circumstances instead of seeing the Lord in her circumstances.
ii. And we’ll see as the story continues – that God was up to something spectacular – that would pave the way for King David and for Jesus...and the redemption of God’s people.
5. And You? – But what about you? When hard times arise in your life – how do you view them?
a. Like Naomi – do you get blinded by your circumstances? Do your circumstances dictate your happiness and trust in the Lord? Is the Lord only as good as your present situation?
i. This text challenges you to believe that God is active in your life…even when it hurts.
1. And that’s the challenge of walking by faith. To walk by faith is to see all situations of your life as opportunities to glorify God.
a. But too often we are self-centered or blind to what God is doing.
ii. When what we want and what God is doing doesn’t line up – sometimes our feelings toward God change. Do we still consider God good and caring and faithful when our desires aren’t met?
1. But here’s what we have to realize – God doesn’t enter into a relationship with us in order to give us everything we want.
a. He draws us to himself that we might find security, contentment, peace and joy in him.
i. Sometimes, to get us to that point, he uses hard times to strip things away from us.
b. Sometimes God brings us to a point of weakness in order to demonstrate his greatness.
i. And when that happens, we can delight in what is dear to God’s heart, entrust ourselves to his care and let him work in our circumstances for his glory.
1. Naomi was ruled by her circumstances – and failed to step back and see who God was moving.
a. She assumed God was angry with her…was punishing her.
i. And sometimes we do the same thing.
ii. But a simple question can change this. We can ask the question, “Where’s God in this?”
1. I call it, thinking theologically – seeing God in all circumstances in life.
a. And that question, “Where’s God in this?” can help us to NOT be ruled by our circumstances…
i. It can help us not tie God’s goodness to our happiness…and it can open our eyes to the way God is moving and working in our lives…especially in the difficult times.
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