Ruth the best is yet to come
It’s on thing to have a theology of who God is and how he works to have a mental understanding.
It’s another thing to have a heart understanding of who he is and how he works.
(use Jesus’ coming into the temple illustration)
These two things can seem the same but then when the pressure comes we begin to understand that our lives are lived out of the heart theology not out of our head theology.
And the things we know internally; the things that we’ve experienced down deep within tend to give direction and comfort or discomfort to us in times of stretching in times when our faith is being pressed and tried.
And we come to a place of wrestling with who God is, in the times when the things that we know about him don’t seem to be happening in the reality of our experience.
And God allows strategic delays from time to time in order for us to come aware of what our hearts believe.
He wants to draw us upward to a greater place of intimacy and understanding not so much for the purpose of what he does but of who he is. We need to find our rest and confidence in who he is and not so much in what he does.
It is so vital that we find our confidence and rest in who he is not what he does! It’s in the pressing we come to realize what our hearts really believes.
the main question we should ask is, What is the lesson of this book? What one main thing can you take away from reading this story?
The Lesson of the Book of Ruth
The life of the godly is not a straight line to glory, but they do get there. The life of the godly is not an Interstate through Nebraska, but a road through the rocky Mountains. There are rock slides and precipices and dark mists and bears and slippery curves and hairpin turns that make you go backwards in order to go forwards. But all along this hazardous, twisted road that doesn’t let you see very far ahead there are frequent signs that say, “The best is yet to come.” And at the bottom right corner of these signs is written with an unmistakable hand are the words, “As I live, says the Lord!”
The book of Ruth is one of those signs for you to read. It was written and it has been preached to give you encouragement and hope that all the perplexing turns in your life lately are not dead-end streets. In all the setbacks of your life as a believer God has purposed for your joy.
Setbacks, Hope, and Strategies of Righteousness
The story of Ruth is a series of setbacks. In chapter 1 Naomi and her husband and two sons were forced to leave their homeland in Judah on account of famine. Then Naomi’s husband dies. Her sons marry Moabite women and for ten years the women prove to be barren. And then her sons die leaving two widows in the house of Naomi. (plight of a widow in that day)
Even though Ruth chooses to stay with Naomi, chapter 1 ends with Naomi’s bitter complaint: “I went away full and the Lord has brought me back empty … The Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.”
In chapter 2 Naomi is filled with new hope because Boaz appears on the scene as a possible husband for Ruth (A kinsmen redeemer.). But he doesn’t propose to Ruth. He doesn’t make any moves. At least that’s the way it seems at first. So the chapter closes brimming with excited hope, but also with great suspense and uncertainty about how all this might work out.
In chapter 3 Naomi and Ruth make a risky move in the middle of the night. Ruth goes to Boaz on the threshing floor and says in effect, Ruth posture herself at the feet of Boaz and wraps herself with his garment which was a cultural statement to Boaz I want to be yours I want to embrace your protection and your love over me..
and Boaz realizing what’s happing in 3:12,13 turns to her and say s “you’ve done me a great kindness because you chose me over those other men. (another words over the voices of the other lovers) “you’ve done me a great kindness”. Boaz chooses her not for duty but because of love the once caretaker desires to be a husband.
But right when the tragedy of Ruth’s widowhood seems to be resolved into a beautiful love story, a big boulder rolls out onto the road of Ruth’s life. There is another man who according to Hebrew custom has prior claim to marry Ruth. The impeccably honest Boaz will not proceed without giving this man his lawful opportunity. So chapter 3 ends again in the suspense of another setback.
More Setbacks on the Way to Glory
So after the midnight rendezvous in chapter 3, Boaz in chapter 4 goes to the city gate where the official business was done. The nearer kinsman comes by, and Boaz lays the situation before him. Naomi is giving up what little property she has, and the duty of the nearer kinsman is to buy it so that the inheritance stays in the family. Look at verse 3 and 4 3 Then he said to the next of kin, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land which belonged to our kinsman Elimelech. 4So I thought I would tell you of it, and say, Buy it in the presence of those sitting here, and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you will not, tell me, that I may know, for there is no one besides you to redeem it, and I come after you.” And he said, “I will redeem it.”
So to our dismay the kinsman says at the end of verse 4, “I will redeem it.” We don’t want him to redeem it. We want Boaz to do it. So again there seems to be a setback. And the irony of this setback is that it is being caused by righteousness.
The fellow is only doing his duty. Sometimes the mountain ascent is all clogged up, not with boulders or bears, but with good workmen only doing their duty. Our frustrations are not only caused by sin but also by what seems to us as ill-timed righteousness.
Just when we are about to say, “O no! Stop the story! Don’t let this other guy take Ruth!” Boaz says to the nearer kinsman, “You know, don’t you, that Naomi has a daughter-in-law. So when you do the part of the kinsman redeemer, you must also take her as your wife and raise up offspring in the name of her husband Mahlon?”
Look at verse 6 Then the next of kin said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.”
So to our great relief, the kinsman says in verse 6 he can’t do it. Perhaps he is married already. Whatever the reason, we are cheering in the background as Boaz gets through the obstacles along the road way to secure for himself a Bride suitable to his nature. (Look at verse 5 for a moment)
5Then Boaz said, “The day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you are also buying Ruth, the Moabitess, the widow of the dead, in order to restore the name of the dead to his inheritance.”
It’s how they both were looking at the situation Boaz saw the treasure not the field to were the other guy saw the field and no value to what to him would be coal not a diamond. (This is Matt 13:44)
So Boaz wins the hand of Ruth But there is a cloud overhead. Ruth is barren. Or at least she seems to be. Back in 1:4 we were told that she had been married ten years to (Machlown Mahlon ) and there were no children.
So even now the suspense is not over. Can you see why I said that the lesson of the book of Ruth is that the life of the godly is not a straight line to glory? Life is one curve after another. And we never know what’s coming. But the point of the story is that the best is yet to come. No matter where you are, if you love God, the best is yet to come. As it was with Boaz and Ruth look at verse 13 of chapter 4.
“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.”
Now, I want us to see something else, look at verses 14-17 14Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without next of kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel! 15He 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 borne him.” 16Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. 17And 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.
Notice how the focus in verses 14–17 is not on Ruth at all, nor on Boaz. The focus is on Naomi and the child. Why?
Well Naomi’s name at the beginning of this book could of easily have been called rough times Naomi. That’s the way we meet her in the beginning of this book. Again the point of the book is that the life of the godly is not a straight line to glory, but they do get there. He that begain the work will complete it! The story began with Naomi’s loss. It ends with Naomi’s gain. It began with death and ends with birth. A son—for whom? Look at Verse 17
The neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi!” So they named him Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.
Verse 17 is the great destination of Naomi’s long and twisted road. “And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, ‘A son has been born to Naomi.’ ” Not to Ruth! But to Naomi! Why? To show that it was not true, what Naomi had said in 1:21, that the Lord had brought her back empty from Moab. (read it again). And if we could just learn to wait and trust in God, all our complaints against God would prove untrue. Naomi name in Hebrew means (my delight).
Now turn to Isaiah 62:4 It will no longer be said to you, “Forsaken,” Nor to your land will it any longer be said, “Desolate”; But you will be called, “My delight is in her,” And your land, “Married”; For the Lord delights in you, And to Him your land will be married.
In the kindness of God he gives us a picture of what that verse looks like in the story of Ruth and Naomi. This is not pie in the sky… (Ps 130)
Signposts of God’s Gracious Work in Bitter Setbacks
The book of Ruth Isaiah 62:4 was written to help us see the signposts of the grace of God in our lives, and to help us trust his grace even when the clouds are so thick that we can’t see the road let alone the signs on the side. Let’s go back and remind ourselves that it was God who acted to turn each setback into a stepping stone to joy, and that it is God in all of our bitter providences who is plotting for our good. (Jer 29:11-12 )
God goodness and Joy for Naomi revealed in 3 ways. Looking through the rear view mirrior.
First when Naomi’s whole life seemed to crumble and collapse while in Moab, it was God who gave Ruth to Naomi. We know this from two verses. In 1:16 we learn that at the root of Ruth’s commitment to Naomi is Ruth’s commitment to Naomi’s God: “Your God shall be my God.” God had won Ruth’s loyalty in Moab and so it was to God that Naomi owed the amazing love of her daughter-in-law.
Also in 2:12 it says that when Ruth came to Judah with Naomi, she was coming to take refuge under the wings of God. Therefore God was orchestrating the events for Ruth to leave her home and family to follow and serve Naomi. All along it was God turning Naomi’s setback into joy—even when she was oblivious to his grace!
Ruth was a gift from God to Naomi. Are we oblivious to the grace of God in the relationships around us, are oblivious to the grace of God with what God has given as a gift to this city the CHOP.
Secondly through the grace of Preservation.
Naomi gives the impression in chapter 1 that there is no hope that Ruth could marry and raise up children to continue the family line (1:12). But all the while God is preserving a wealthy and godly man named Boaz to do just that. The reason we know that this was God’s doing is that Naomi herself admits it in 2:20. She recognizes that behind the “accidental” meeting of Ruth and Boaz was the “kindness of God who has not forsaken the living or the dead.” In every loss that the godly endure God is already maneuvering for their gain.
So God goodness and Joy for Naomi is first revealed by giving ruth to her
Secondly by preserving Boaz for Ruth. And Thirdly
It was God that gave to the barren womb of Ruth the child so that the neighborhood women could say, “A son has been born to Naomi”? God gave the child. Look at 4:11 read: All the people who were in the court, and the elders, said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, both of whom built the house of Israel; and may you achieve wealth in Ephrathah and become famous in Bethlehem.
The townspeople pray for Boaz and Ruth. They knew that Ruth was married for ten years without a child. That why it says, So they remember Rachel whose womb the Lord had opened long before. And they pray that God will make Ruth like Rachel and Leah. And so the author makes very clear in verse 13 who caused this child to be conceived. “….And the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son.
The Opening of Ruth’s Womb is the third way in which God revealed his kindness and Goodness to Naomi.
So again and again in this book it was God who was at work in the bitter setbacks of Naomi. When she lost her husband and sons, God gave her Ruth. When she could think of no kinsman to raise up offspring for the family name, God gave her Boaz. When barren Ruth married Boaz, God gave the child. The point of the story is made in the life of Naomi. The life of the godly is not a straight line to glory, but God sees that they get there.
Is “Glory” Too Strong a Word?
Maybe you think the word glory is a little overdone. After all it’s just a child. A grandmother holding a little child after a long hard life of much heartache. Ah, but that’s not the end of the story.
If this story of Ruth just ended in a little Judean village with an old grandmother hugging a new grandson, glory would be too big a word. But the author doesn’t leave it there. He lifts his eyes to the forests and the mountain snows of redemptive history. In verse 17 he says very simply that this child Obed was the father of Jesse and Jesse was the father of David. All of a sudden we realize that all along something far greater has been in the offing than we could imagine. God was not only plotting for the temporal blessing of a few Jews in Bethlehem. He was preparing for the coming of the greatest king that Israel would have, David. And the name of David carries with it the hope of the Messiah, peace, righteousness, freedom from pain and crying and grief and guilt. This simple little story opens out like a stream into a great river of hope.
The Disease of Triviality
One of the great diseases of our day is triviality. The things with which most people spend most of their time are utterly trivial. And what makes this a disease is that we who were created in the image of God were meant to live for magnificent causes. None of us is really content with the trivial pursuits of the world. Our souls will not be satisfied with trifles. Why is there a whole section of the newspaper devoted to sport, and almost nothing devoted to the greatest story in the universe—the growth and spread of the church of Jesus Christ? It is madness, sheer madness, that insignificant games should occupy such a central role in our culture. It is simply one of many signs that we are enslaved to trivialities. We live in the Swiss village shop staring at the wooden figurines, and rarely lifting our eyes to the forests and the everlasting snows. We live in a perpetual and hopeless struggle to satisfy our longings on trifles. So our souls shrivel. Our lives are trivial. And our capacity for great worship dies.
The Glorious Work of God in History
The book of Ruth wants to teach us that God’s purpose for the life of his people is to connect us to something far greater than ourselves. God wants us to know that when we follow him, our lives always mean more than we think they do. For the Christian there is always a connection between the ordinary events of life and the stupendous work of God in history. Everything we do in obedience to God, no matter how small, is significant. It is part of a cosmic mosaic which God is painting to display the greatness of his power and wisdom to the world and to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places (Ephesians 3:10). The deep satisfaction of the Christian life is that it is not given over to trifles. Serving a widowed mother-in-law, gleaning in a field, falling in love, having a baby—for the Christian these things are all connected to eternity. They are part of something so much bigger than they seem.
So the word glory is not too strong. The life of the godly is not a straight line to glory, but they do get there—God sees to it. There is a hope for us beyond the cute baby and the happy grandmother. If there weren’t, we would be of all men most miserable. The story points forward to David. David points forward to Jesus. And Jesus points forward to the resurrection of our mortal bodies (Romans 8:23) when “death will be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
The best is yet to come. That is the unshakable truth about the life of the woman and the man who follow Christ in the obedience of faith. I say it to the young who are strong and hopeful, and I say it to the old, for whom the outer nature is quickly wasting away. The best is yet to come.
A Parable of God’s Covenant Love
I saw it in a parable Friday. I was visiting some of our elderly people at the Caroline Center, and got on the elevator with a woman in a wheel chair who was old, misshapen, and confused. She shook her head meaninglessly and uttered senseless sounds and let her mouth hang open. Then I noticed that a well dressed man, perhaps in his mid-sixties, was pushing her chair. I wondered who he was. Then as we all got off the elevator, I heard him say, “Watch your feet, Sweetie-pie.”
Sweetie-pie. As I walked to the car, I thought … if a marriage covenant between a man and a woman can produce that kind of fidelity and commitment and affection under those circumstances, then surely under the great and merciful terms of the new covenant in Christ, God has no difficulty calling Odette McAviney, and Harold Holmgren, and Mary Agnes Danielson, and you and me (sick as we are!), “Sweetie-pie.” And if he does, there is no truth more unshakable in all the world than this: For them and for us the best is yet to come. Amen.