Ruth: Redemption for the Foreigner - As Seen On Sunday
Our Weekly Confession
we have felt as if you have dealt bitterly with us,
we have forgotten that you have a plan,
forgive us and help us be faithful to you.
So I had originally read something in my daily bible reading that I went “OH I’ll preach on that!” but then I went back to find it later and it eluded me. With that, I looked at Ruth because I still have not been able to shake preaching on it. I was going to break it up and even considered asking Josh to do a selection from it, but the more I read it, the more I knew that I had to preach the whole story at once.
The book of Ruth is known as a story about women surviving in a culture in which their rights were tied to men. Ruth is the idealistic “good woman” who takes care of her mother-in-law. We have her quote “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.” and we praise her for it and idolize it. Women are “suppose to be like her.”
But what is actually being said by the story of Ruth?
Our story begins with Elimelech and Naomi traveling with their two sons from Bethlehem to Moab because of a famine. The Elimelech dies, the sons marry Orpah and Ruth, and then the sons die. So now we are left with Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth. Naomi hears that “The Lord had visited his people and given them food” so she decides to return since she has nothing left. They start off their journey but Naomi tells her daughter-in-laws to go back to their people but Ruth insists on staying with her.
So they go to Bethlehem.
In the Jewish culture, the poor and widowed could “glean” in the field behind those who were harvesting. It is even in the law not to go back and pick up crops that have been dropped, specifically so that the poor would have something. Presumably, since Ruth is the young one, she goes out into the field to collect food for the both of them. So she comes to the part of the field that was owned by Boaz who was in the same clan as Elimelech, Naomi’s late husband. Boaz wants to know who she is. So I’m guessing she's cute but he finds out that she's doing all this for Naomi and that they are both widows within his clan, he starts to look out for her. He feeds her and sends food home for Naomi.
This goes on until the end of harvest.
Now, something has to change, what has been the status quo cannot continue on. Naomi knows this and hatches a plan. Essentially, Naomi sends Ruth to wait for Boaz to eat and drink himself to sleep and then make herself available to him. That could have been the end of the story but it is not. He makes a deal with her that they will check with the closer relative first and if that relative will not redeem her - meaning have a child with her that will be her husband’s kid. This other relative was interested in the land but not in taking Ruth because he did not want to have to give a son to her that would receive an inheritance from him.
Boaz then takes her as his wife and they have a child named Obed. The story ends as we find out that Obed eventually has a son named Jesse and that Jesse’s son is none other than David.
I have three points to my sermon this week!
Ruth shows us that God includes outsiders even in the Old Testament.
So we have a story here where the main characters are women and immigrants. We have a whole book dedicated to the inclusion of an outsider and woman to the point that she is in the lineage of David and Jesus. David coming from a Moabite is extremely significant to the Jewish history especially since a whole book is written explaining how it happened. At the time of the writing of Ruth, they don't know about Jesus specifically, but Matthew makes sure to include several women in his genealogy.
When seeing the Bible in full view we see that it both reports the oppression of women and reports the importance of them as well as shows how women are used by God for his purposes. The Bible could easily neglect to report the significance of Ruth to the Davidic blood line when traditionally the woman would not have been included.
When people look at the Bible as having too different gods, Ruth shows us that there was not one God who only liked the Israelites and another who added everyone else in, but there had been a plan for all of humanity all along.
Ruth foreshadows the redemption of all humanity.
It is almost universal that people see Boaz as a shadow or representation of the redemption for all in Christ. What's more is that this kinsman redeemer redeemed a gentile (going back to our first point about the inclusion of outsiders). Just as Ruth could not do anything to change her situation, so are sinful humans who cannot achieve righteousness on their own merit.
Ruth shows us God’s Sovereignty
The sovereignty of God is in Full display in Ruth. There is nowhere that it says that God told them to go to Moab. But God used the going to Moab and the faithfulness of his people to lead to king David and through David to our lord and savior Jesus Christ. We can see God’s divine plan play out within Ruth.
There is a time where Naomi briefly laments. Although the book does not dwell on this fact nor does it give us any idea how long this went on, I think it is safe to assume that it was not as brief as the book makes it. What the book does is show us the big picture in story form. Lamentations teaches us how to lament and Ruth teaches us that God has a plan even when we have occasion to lament.