Lamentations 3:22-24, “It is the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him”
The Text – Ruth 1-4
Theme – “God blesses those who are faithful to Him”
Great issues are often determined by choices that on the surface appear to be insignificant. The choice or decision of one person often affects many. Indeed, there have been a few people in our history who made choices and decisions by which God, in His providence, has directed the history of the world. Sometimes when good things happen to us we make comments like “I got lucky” or “What a coincidence.”
But there is no way of reading the book of Ruth and being able to say that everything that happened to them happened by chance. God had a plan for Naomi and Ruth. Just like he has a plan for us today – to conform us to the image of His Son Christ Jesus. Naomi and Ruth would have probably said they had a streak of bad luck considering their circumstances but the truth was, they were in God’s Favor and things were just about to turn around for them. My beloved, today God also favors his children.
There are some belief systems in the world today that believe that God is no longer involved on a personal basis in his creation. That he just created it, set some laws in order and now it operates on its own That’s a belief I can’t accept, because there is too much evidence all around me in my life, the life of this church and in the world that says, “God is still involved in His creation and that certain events that happen in our life are a direct result of God showing his favor towards us”. Here are a few examples of how God works in the lives of individuals:
(1) In 1858 a Sunday school teacher, Mr. Kimball, led a Boston shoe clerk to give his life to Jesus Christ. The clerk was Dwight L. Moody who became an evangelist.
(2) In 1879 while preaching in England the heart of a pastor named F.B. Meyer was set on fire, who later came to an American college campus to preach. Under his preaching a student by the name of Wilbur Chapman was saved.
(3) He engaged in YMCA work and employed a former baseball player named Billy Sunday, to do evangelistic work. Billy Sunday held a revival in Charlotte, North Carolina. Because the revival stirred the hearts of many, some 30 business men wanted to devote a day of prayer for Charlotte. In May of 1934 a farmer loaned the men some land to use for their prayer meeting. The leader of the business men, Vernon Patterson prayed, “Out of Charlotte the Lord would raise up someone to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth.”
The business men then called for another evangelistic meeting asking Mordecai Ham, a fiery Southern evangelist who shattered the complacency of church-going Charlotte. The farmer who loaned his land for the prayer meeting was Franklin Graham and his son Billy became a Christian during the meeting. Thus, it’s impossible to say that everything just happens by chance.
Ruth 1:14 says, “Ruth clave unto her” – Naomi. The decision of Ruth forever fixed the course of human history in the direction of God’s eternal and redemptive purpose!
The book of Ruth unfolds the story of a family of four that moved from the Promised Land in time of famine and settled in Moab in search of a new life. However, life in Moab brought disasters far worse than the famine. The only bright spot was the conversion of a daughter-in-law from paganism to true worship. She showed true faithfulness as a daughter-in-law in desperate circumstances.
The book of Ruth also holds a love story, a true romance that involved Ruth, a Moabite woman, and Boaz, a farmer in Bethlehem-Judah. Many people have said that the Book of Ruth is the most beautiful short story ever written. It’s an account of anxiety, fear, love, and commitment that inflames the imagination and soothes the soul. It begins with despair and ends with delight.
When Benjamin Franklin was the Ambassador to France, he occasionally attended the Infidels Club — a group that spent most of its time searching for and reading literary masterpieces. On one occasion Franklin read the book of Ruth to the club, but changed the names in it so it would not be recognized as a book of the Bible. When he finished, the listeners were unanimous in their praise. They said it was one of the most beautiful short stories that they had ever heard, and demanded that he tell them where he had run across such a remarkable work of art. He loved telling them that it came from the Bible!
And, because this love story is in the Bible, it’s more than just a romance novel. Romans 15:4 says, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Paul is referring here to the Old Testament, including the book of Ruth. That means we’ll be taught, we’ll be more able to endure tough times, and we’ll be encouraged as we learn together. In the process, we’ll grow in hope.
What does it mean to be faithful and what would be some examples? Webster defines the word as being steadfast in affection or allegiance. Loyal or firm in adherence to promises or in observance of duty. Being resolute which implies a firm determination to adhere to a cause or purpose? Many people would say they are faithful to their partner in marriage or they are faithful in sticking to a diet plan or exercise program. But what about our faithfulness to our Lord and His ministry? Are we faithful in this area as we are in other areas of our life? The apostle Paul wrote, “It is required in stewards that one be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2).
(1) Who do you look to as an example of faithfulness?
(2) How has God blessed your life?
A. RUTH’S LIFE IN MOAB – Ruth 1
- Desperate Circumstances – (Ruth 1:1-5)
The first chapter of Ruth introduces us to the setting. We read in Ruth 1:1, “There was a famine in the land.” This fact may place Ruth’s story around the time of Gideon and the oppressive Midianite raids. These desperate circumstances motivated Elimelech to take his wife, Naomi, and their two sons to Moab (v. 2). However, the famine and oppression in Israel must have seemed light compared with the desperate circumstances Naomi experienced in Moab. Her husband, Elimelech, died, leaving Naomi a widow in a foreign land (v. 3). Then the sons married pagans (v. 4) and died before their tenth anniversaries (v. 5). Naomi had only two widowed daughters-in-law she could call family.
- Decisive Choices – (Ruth 1:6-22)
Ruth 1:15-18, “And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law. And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. When she saw that she was steadfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her”
At this point in the narrative we learn that Naomi heard that the famine had ended back home. She decided to return home but advised her daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, to return to their mothers (vv. 6-9). Both women pledged their loyalty to Naomi, but soon Orpah kissed Naomi good-bye and returned home (vv. 10-14). However, Ruth made a choice that changed the course of her life. Despite Naomi’s further insistence that Ruth return home, Ruth chose to cast her fortunes with Naomi (vv. 15-18). Perhaps it was because Ruth was sickened with the pagan worship of Chemosh, which involved child sacrifice. Whatever the reason, her decision was final. She trusted in the God of Israel.
If we learn nothing else from Ruth’s choice, we ought to be made to realize the importance of making, even seemingly insignificant decisions, with wisdom and care. Always consider the consequences of your decisions. Do not make hasty, rash, spur of the moment decisions because they are almost always costly and to be regretted.
(a) Elimelech made a decision which resulted in the ruin of his family.
(b) However, Ruth made a decision that was costly to her, but was right, and resulted in the everlasting salvation of untold millions! Yet, it was a decision, a choice made in a lonely dessert, which no one knew about but Ruth, Orpah, Naomi and God.
(c) Ruth said to Naomi, “Whither thou goest, I will go” -In these few verses Ruth had no way of knowing what cross roads she might come to. However, she deliberately and decidedly renounced all freedom of choice in the affairs of her life. She committed herself to a path, not knowing where it might take her, only that it would end in Bethlehem. She committed herself to a course of life that would be entirely determined by someone else. That is exactly what sinners do when they come to Christ and what could be more blessed then to have our path ordered by the Good Shepherd, who goes before His sheep in the way in which he leads them.
(d) “And where thou lodgest, I will lodge” – Ruth also makes no stipulations as to where the lodging place should be, or what kind. The one desire that filled her was to be with Naomi, her beloved mother-in-law. This is also a picture of every believer’s great ambition and blessed prospect, to dwell with Jesus Christ (Psalm 27:4; 23:6)
(e) “Thy people shall be my people” – Ruth’s choice also involved a painful separation. She left her people and took Naomi’s people. The first thing God calls for is an affirmation of love by a separation, an alienation of affection from all natural, earthly relationships. If we would follow Christ, Christ alone must be considered (Luke 14:25-27). When God called Abraham, he commanded him to leave his country, his kindred, and his father’s house.
(f) “Thy God (shall be) my God” – Without question, this was the most difficult part of Ruth’s decision. The natural man clings with the utmost tenacity to his religion and to his gods. It matters not how degrading the religion is, or how useless the god is, the fact that it is his religion and his god gives it value in his eyes. He will fight for his religion and he will die in the defense of his god. It is impossible for anyone to follow Christ without forsaking the religion of their false gods. You must choose, as Ruth did, between the gods of your fathers and the true and living God, the God revealed in this precious Book, the God revealed in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
(g) Then Ruth said to Naomi, “Where thou diest, will I die” – At the very outset, Ruth said to Naomi, “I have made my decision. It is a life-long commitment. It will not be reversed. Not one step will be retraced.” I will be with you to the end! (Luke 9:62).
(h) There is one more think that Ruth said, “And there will I be buried” – Her life was so interwoven with Naomi’s that she wanted to be buried with her! Ruth’s allegiance to Naomi ended in a common grave, but the believer’s union with and allegiance to Jesus Christ begins in a common grave. We are buried with him in baptism (Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12). If we died with him, we shall be raised by him and when we are raised by him, we shall live together with him forever – We shall “ever be with the Lord!”
So the two widows, one young, the other old, journeyed to Bethlehem-Judah, where people who knew Naomi could hardly believe how she had aged in a decade (vv. 18-22). The trip home would not have been easy. The women would have traveled down the mountains of Moab; through the hot, humid Dead Sea basis, about thirteen hundred feet below sea level; and then up the Judean mountains to Bethlehem, about three thousand feet above sea level. In all, they traveled at least fifty very hard miles. Upon returning to Bethlehem, Naomi, whose name means “pleasant,” suggested that her neighbors call her “Mara,” meaning “bitter.”
Her sojourn in pagan Moab had taken a toll on her. She had gone out full and God brought her back empty. Of course, Naomi could not see the future and God’s gracious moving behind the scenes. Naomi does not seem like an enjoyable person to be around. The fact that Ruth chose to stay with Naomi under such dire circumstances is a testimony to Ruth’s deep commitment to God and her mother-in-law.
B. RUTH’S LIFE IN THE PROMISED LAND – (Ruth 2:1-3:18). In her adopted land, Ruth proved to be a woman of strong and godly character.
- Resourcefulness – (Ruth 2:1-3)
Ruth asked permission of Naomi to glean grain where she might find a willing landowner (Ruth 2:1, 2). Naomi agreed. Ruth happened to go to the field of Boaz, a wealthy and godly farmer and a relative of Elimelech (vv. 1, 3). Ruth had not intentionally chose Boaz’s field, but God controlled her steps and providentially guided her to it. Would someone please read Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths”. Can someone share how the Lord has directed your steps in critical times?
- Romance – (Ruth 2:4-3:18)
How would you like your boss to greet you with the words that Boaz spoke? He met his workers and said, “The LORD be with you” In turn they answered, “The LORD bless thee” (v. 4). After greeting his workers, Boaz asked his foreman who Ruth was. He had seen her gleaning in the field (v. 5). The foreman replied, “It is the Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi out of the country of Moab” (v. 6). He further explained that she was an industrious worker (v. 7). Based on Boaz’s instructions to Ruth (v. 8), his heart must have been skipping a few beats over her. A romance was beginning to bud.
(a) What character traits do you admire in Ruth?
(b) Would you like to have someone like Boaz for a boss?
(c) What privileges did Boaz extend to Ruth?
(d) Placed among workers (v. 8). Ruth was to stay in Boaz’s fields during the harvest.
(e) Protection from men (v. 9). Boaz ordered his men not to take advantage of her.
(f) Provision for drink (v. 9). Thinking of her physical needs, he instructed her to freely use his workers’ waterpot.
(g) Portion of food (v. 14). Knowing that hard work would make her hungry, he invited her to eat with his crew
(h) Preference in gleaning (vv. 15-17). Ruth was permitted to glean in Boaz’s field, among his reapers. Boaz also instructed them to drop some grain on purpose, making it easier for Ruth.
(i) Why did Boaz treat Ruth so well?
(j) What did Ruth gain by remaining faithful to God?
Recognizing that the large amount of grain Ruth brought home indicated favor had been shown to her (vv. 17, 18). Naomi inquired of Ruth where she had gleaned (v. 19). Knowing that Boaz was a relative, Naomi rejoiced and instructed Ruth to stay with Boaz’s maidens, lest she fall victim to a sexual attack (vv. 20-22).
How did Naomi’s attitude change once she saw God working in Ruth’s life?
Several weeks had passed. Barley and wheat harvests were over. Ruth and Boaz had ample time to become acquainted. Naomi suggested it was time for Ruth to act. She instructed Ruth to learn where Boaz would sleep that night. After he had gone to bed, Ruth was to uncover his feet and ask him to perform the duty of the kinsman-redeemer by marrying her (3:1-4).
Ruth accepted Naomi’s plan so after supper; Boaz went to sleep on the threshing floor. Ruth entered, uncovered his feet, and lay down crosswise at his feet. During the night, Boaz realized someone was sleeping nearby. Ruth then identified herself and requested that Boaz “spread therefore they skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman” (v. 9). The use of “spread my [God’s] skirt over thee [Israel]” in Ezekiel 16:8 shows that this was not an immodest proposal but rather Ruth’s request that Boaz become her protector through marriage. Actually, she was simply reminding him of his obligation as a near relative. He was her kinsman-redeemer.
Boaz indicated his willingness to marry Ruth but pointed out that she had a closer relative who had the first opportunity to marry her. If this man would not marry Ruth, Boaz promised that he would (Ruth 3:11, 12).
What did Boaz’s mention of the nearer kinsman-redeemer indicate about his faithfulness to God?
Boaz then showed his love and respect for Ruth in four ways: (1) She stayed the rest of the night with him for safety’s sake (v. 13). (2) While she slept at his feet during the night (v. 14), Boaz did not engage in an improper relationship. (3) Knowing that others might think evil of the events of the night, he sent Ruth home early in the morning, under the cover of darkness (v. 14). (4) Boaz sent some grain home with her as a pledge that he would fulfill his word (v. 15). Upon hearing Ruth’s “engaging” report and seeing the grain, Naomi understood that Boaz would vigorously pursue the prospect of marriage (vv. 16-18).
C. REDEMPTION – THE PRICE PAID – (Ruth 4)
Chapter one showed Naomi is in a bad situation. She had left her own country, lost her husband, lost her two sons and one of her daughters-in-law left her too. Yet Ruth stayed with Naomi. In fact she said, “Your people will be my people, Your God my God, Where you go I will go, where you stay I will stay.”
In chapter two we found that Naomi and Ruth had returned to Naomi’s country. Ruth goes out into the fields and is able to glean enough grain to keep them alive. Naomi and Ruth discover that they have a relative who could ease their struggle to survive. Naomi looks at this as God’s hand involved in their lives. We find that God is actively involved in their lives and we asked the question – is God actively involved in our lives even though we don’t perceive it sometimes?
In chapter three we found a message of full blown hope. Naomi helps Ruth work out a plan for the future – a plan for more than just a plan of survival – a plan for full life. A plan that would affect the rest of their lives. A plan that would guarantee them a secure future. They had traveled from despair to hope.
- Redemption through Boaz – (Ruth 4:1-16)
The word redemption is a term used in the Bible to refer to the special intervention of God for the salvation of mankind. This use of the word deals with the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross wherein He paid the price to “purchase” human beings and set them free from their slavery to sin. Because of Christ’s substitutionary atonement, He is called the Redeemer.
At the city gate, where legal matters were settled, Boaz approached Naomi’s nearer kinsman (Ruth 4:1, 2). In the presence of ten witnesses (more than needed), Boaz announced that Naomi was about to sell her land (v. 3). It was the duty of the nearest relative to redeem it if he could, to keep it in the family, as part of the inheritance. Although willing to buy the land, the nearest kinsman was not able to marry Ruth and support her (vv. 4-6). However, Boaz could afford the financial strain and had no heirs of his own to consider. In due process of law, the ceremony was completed as the closer kinsman relinquished his responsibilities (vv. 7-9). Boaz then married Ruth, becoming her kinsman-redeemer (v. 10).
During the chaotic and sinful days of the judges, God was graciously continuing to prepare the way for a coming Redeemer! The redemption Boaz provided for Ruth was basically a physical, material redemption, but it was also a foreshadowing of the spiritual redemptive work that Ruth’s descendant Jesus Christ would accomplish.
Those men who carried out the brutal business at Calvary didn’t know, was that somehow, in spite of the sin they were then committing, God through Jesus Christ had completed the final and perfect sacrifice for sin. The Son of God was announcing that the eternal plan of the Father for the salvation of men had become a historical fact and that its fruits would extend into eternity future. That is, the work that was finished then at Calvary would remain finished forever and ever.
Redemption means “freedom by the payment of a price”. We are ransomed from our sin and condemnation. We have been bought out of bondage of sin. The ransom price for our sin has been paid in full (Matthew 20:28; Romans 3:24; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Galatians 3:13; 4:4, 5; Ephesian 1:7, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace”; Colossians 1:14; Titus 2:14; Hebrew 9:12; 1 Peter 1:18, 19).
John testified that Jesus loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood (Revelation 1:5). John the Baptist described Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Peter said that the full weight of our sins fell upon Jesus (1 Peter 2:24), and the apostle Paul understood the significance of the cross. He had done many things in which he might have found personal satisfaction and pride (2 Corinthians 11:16-12:13). However, in his letter to the Galatians he wrote, “God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (6:14).
This precious book of Ruth has for us a few things about Boaz’s redemption of Ruth, which are also true regarding Christ’s redemption, to those who have accepted Him as Savior and Lord of their life. When can say with certainty that:
(1) No one but Boaz could redeem Ruth. He alone was both able and willing to redeem her. Redemption, if it is proper, must be legal. Thus, our redemption by Jesus Christ is our only and proper redemption. He alone is willing to redeem (Hebrews 10:1-5); He alone is able to redeem (Psalm 24); and, He alone is a just and legal Redeemer (Isaiah 45:20).
(2) Boaz went through great pains, trouble, and cost to redeem Ruth; but he did so with great pleasure. He did it all with the sweet prospect of having Ruth for himself forever. Even so, did our Lord Jesus who found great pleasure and satisfaction in the midst of his sorrow, as he anticipated having His bride with him forever (Hebrew 12:2; Isaiah 53:10-12).
(3) It was precious because the redemption of the soul is precious. It was precious because the price of redemption was his precious blood, and it was precious because it was a great act of infinite and condescending grace. Boaz wasn’t ashamed of Ruth, the poor Moabite stranger. She couldn’t redeem herself; but this wealthy Prince stooped down to lift her up and to exalt her. What a type of the Lord Jesus Boaz is. Christ stooped low, that he might lift us high. He invites the poor, the wretched, the miserable, the prostitute, the blind, and the lame to come to Him. Lastly, Christ isn’t ashamed to call us brethren.
(4) There were many witnesses to this great transaction. It wasn’t done in a corner and out of sight. When Boaz purchased Ruth everyone in Bethlehem knew about it. Likewise, there were also many witnesses to our redemption by Jesus Christ, such as the angels of God, the law of God, the demons of hell and God Himself. As Boaz pulled off his shoe as a token of the transaction being complete (v. 8), so the Lord Jesus Christ took off his grave clothes and ascended up to heaven, “having obtained eternal redemption for us!” (Hebrews 9:12; Romans 4:25).
More than a century ago, an evangelist preached a stirring sermon on the theme of the blood of Christ as the only means of salvation. After the service, a refined and fashionably dressed woman said something like this to the evangelist. “I wish you would not speak so much about the blood of Christ. It nauseates ladies and gentlemen.” To this the evangelist replied, “But Christ didn’t die for ladies and gentlemen; He died for sinners.”
Prime Minister Winston Churchill was honoring member of the Royal Air Force who had defended Britain during World War II. Recounting their brave service, he declared, “Never in the history of mankind has so many owed so much too so few.” A similar sentiment appears on a memorial plaque in Bastogne, Belgium, where raged the famous Battle of the Bulge, one of the bloodiest conflicts of the Second World War. The inscription, in honor of the United States 101st Airborne Division, reads: “Seldom has so much American blood been shed in the course of a single action.
Those are fitting and well-deserved tributes to the courageous men and women who sacrificed so much for their country. As I think about them, I also remember the One whose selfless sacrifice resulted in benefits for people of all nations. Jesus Christ, the sinless One, died on a cross and shed His blood to pay the penalty for our sins. In so doing, He guaranteed our freedom … freedom from the penalty, power, and someday even the presence of sin. Of Jesus it can be said: Never in the history of mankind have so many owed so much to one Man. His was the greatest sacrifice, and through His death we have Salvation, the only way to have forgiveness of sin and the promise of heaven. He is truly our only Redeemer.
Love sent the Savior to die in my stead,
Why should He love me so?
Meekly to Calvary’s cross He was led.
Why should He love me so? – Harkness
Nothing speaks more clearly of God’s love than the cross of Christ.