Summary: Seeing God in the Ordinary An Introduction to Ruth
Seeing God in the Ordinary
An Introduction to Ruth
We are taking a break in Luke with a series entitled “Seeing God in the Ordinary,” based upon the Book of Ruth. By teaching through this little book I am asking God to resurrect our eyes so that we see His presence in our daily lives, so that we see Him working the ordinary events of our lives, and so that our worship of Him will be deeper and more profound. This book is all about God working in and through ordinary ways. When I read it last summer and fall, I was struck with this theme and it gripped me.
As Mark Halpin and I teach through this book, I would encourage you to read it alongside our teaching. It will enrich your time here on Sundays. I would even encourage you to discuss it in your small group.
One of the reasons I like the stories or narratives of the Old Testament because they describe how God relates to and works in the lives of individuals. But more importantly, narratives give us stories that help us to see God’s story or God’s history. So as we spend time in Ruth remember that the main character is not Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz but God. The most important point in this book is that God is faithful and He provides. He provides for the nation of Israel through the lineage of David and he provides in the lives of ordinary people like Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz.
We find out from the start that the story of Ruth takes place during the dark days of the judges (1:1). The book of Judges comes just before Ruth in our English Bibles and you can see from its very last verse what sort of period it was. It was a very dark time in Israel. The people would sin, God would send enemies against them, the people would cry for help and God would mercifully raise up a judge to deliver them. Again and again the people rebelled, and from all outward appearances it looked as thought God's purposes for righteousness and glory in Israel would fail. What the book of Ruth does for us is give us a glimpse of the hidden work of God during the worst of times. God is always working, even in the worst of times.
1. God Works in Ordinary Ways
We will see that God is in the ordinary events of life, that nothing is left to chance, and the providence or sovereignty of God much of the time is subtle. The author starts out showing this in the very first verse, saying there was a famine in the land (1:1) then he tells us that God visits his people ten years later giving them abundant crops (1:6). In Scripture famines can have both natural and divine causes. In the history of Israel they are frequently said to be sent as punishment for Israel’s rebellion against the Lord. We do not know if this is the case here, but it probably is because of what we know of the time of the judges.
We see the subtleness of God’s sovereignty also in the worst time of Naomi’s life, when she has lost everything, God gives her Ruth as a companion (1:16-18). We see it again, in chapter two when Ruth ‘happened upon’ Boaz’s field (v. 3). This incident sets up the rest of the story; without her happening upon Boaz’s field we have no story and David’s lineage is not complete. One of the main points of the book is God being sovereign over history to fulfill his purposes. God used the ordinary event of the lives of three people to fulfill his purposes. God is in the details of life. He is in the famine and the harvest; he is in Ruth committing herself to Naomi and Boaz committing himself to Ruth. This also points to the grace and generosity of God. Naomi returns to Bethlehem empty and end up full. She returns for food and God gives her a son.
Now the question naturally becomes is her bitterness result of sin or not? Should they have left the Promised Land or not. Maybe or maybe not. But we do see that suffering comes to the righteous and it is not necessarily because of sin. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all (Ps 37:19).” The more important point for followers of Christ is that God causes all things to work out for the good.
One of the themes in this little book is that God is at work in the worst of times. Even through the sins of his people he can and he does work for their glory. It was true at the national level and we will see that it is true at the personal, family level, too. When you think he is farthest from you, or maybe has even turned against you, the truth is that he is laying foundation stones of greater happiness in your life. Remember Joseph, his brothers turned on him because of his dream that God would elevate him above them so they sold him off as a slave. They thought they had thwarted forever his prediction of God elevating him, but this was the very means of realizing it, by God overruling their evil. Joseph was imprisoned twice, he was forgotten but in the end he became second in command to Pharaoh so that he would rescue his family. During it all he kept his faith and God turned it all for his personal good and for Israel's national good. The key lesson in Josephs life is this, "As for you, you meant it for evil against me; but God meant it for good (Gen 50:20)." Last week we saw that Jesus took the disciples into the storm but he also took them out of it.