Ruth1:1-22 WSG 11-03-2012
I wonder if you have been tempted to ask the question:
Why should we bother about the Old Testament now we have the New?
I would reply:
• In the Old Testament there are about 300 prophecies that relate to Jesus (per George and Ray Koenig).
• Jesus himself referred a lot to the Old Testament.
• Indeed Jesus’ two great commandments – to love God and to love our neighbours - can be found in the Old Testament Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Leviticus 19:18
• Each Sabbath Jesus would have been in the synagogue listening to the Law and the Prophets (ie the Old Testament) being read.
So if Jesus had such a high regard for the Old Testament, how come – you might say - do we hardly ever preach from the Old Testament.
Perhaps it is because we often think that God’s dealings in the Old Testament were only with the Israelites – the Children of Israel – God’s chosen people.
But that isn’t quite accurate because we do see God dealt kindly with non-Jews too.
The books of Ruth and Jonah are testament to that.
Interestingly in Jesus’ genealogy, four women are mentioned – and three of these were non Jews.
Tamar and Rahab were Canaanites and Ruth was a Moabitess.
Story: When Benjamin Franklin was the US Ambassador to France, in Paris he would often converse with members of the ‘Infidels’ Club’, a group of philosophers who spurned the Bible.
These intellectuals spent much of their time searching for and discussing masterpieces of literature and art.
For his amusement, Benjamin Franklin announced that he found an ancient manuscript worthy of their consideration.
“We must hear it!” they exclaimed.
Franklin then read The Book of Ruth to them, changing the names of the characters and locale so that it would not be recognized as a story from the Bible.
When he was finished, the hearers were unanimous in their praise.
“We have never heard anything like it”, they said.
It is one of the most touching stories we have ever heard.”
“You must tell us where you found it!”
You can imagine Franklin’s mischievous delight when he announced that it was a story from the Bible, the object of their ridicule and disapproval.
It is amazing how little Christians know about the Book of Ruth.
Story: Maddy and I were in Kenya a few years ago and we went to Church at St Peter’s Nyali in Mobassa.
It was a celebration of the Mother’s Union and in Africa time stands still for services.
I think we were there for two 11/2 hour services.
The Bishop’s wife came to speak and her subject was Ruth.
As she was speaking, she said that Naomi was the daughter in law of Ruth and expounded accordingly.
Now there is one thing about preaching that annoys me and that is when the preacher gets his or her facts wrong.
You see even Bishop’s wives can get it wrong.
We live as Christians in a culture of NOT knowing our Scriptures, especially the Old Testament -unlike the Early Church that was well versed in them.
Our first reading therefore was a synopsis of the book of Ruth that you were given with your service books.
So I am not going to summarise the whole story, suffice it to say the Book of Ruth is the ultimate good “mother-in-law” story .
Ruth and Naomi lived in the time of the Book of Judges, a time that is summed up in the final verse of the book
“Every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”
which sounds incredibly modern doesn’t it?
Ruth and Naomi are people like us, or people of the sort we can be.
It is a story that reveals the gracious in the midst of the ordinary.
So this morning I would like to dip into the Book of Ruth
What is so surprising about the book of Ruth is the hero is a woman.
Which today would not be surprising - but in those days where the society was very patriarchal, it would be surprising.
And add to that the heroine is a Moabitess – someone the Jews would consider beyond the pale.
The book opens with the family of Elimelech leaving its home in Bethlehem (yes the very Bethlehem that Jesus would be born in a good thousand years later) and emigrating to Moab.
Leaving the Promised Land to go to Moab – a country full of false gods and evil practices.
Was that God’s will for the family?.
I doubt it.
Elimelech and Naomi’s two sons marry local girls, Orphah and Ruth.
However within 10 years, the father and the two sons die, leaving Naomi, and her two daughters-in-laws destitute.
Hearing that things are now better back home, Naomi decides to return to her native Bethlehem.
She urges the two young girls to remain in their homeland
and begin new lives, but Ruth refuses and insists on
If you want the rest of the story, please do read the synopsis ………………. later!!!
Because I would like to look at just one verse for Ruth, as Naomi urges Ruth to leave her and go back to Moab:
16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you.
Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. (Ruth 1:16).
It is a truly remarkable statement.
It was a great step of faith because it was taking Ruth into the unknown
• to a people who would see her as a foreigner
• to poverty and
• no chance of finding a husband.
So what was it about Naomi that inspired such loyalty in Ruth?
Reading between the lines, I see three things about Naomi
1. Naomi taught Ruth about Jehovah, the God of Israel
As men and women tended to mix mainly among their own sex, more than likely it would have fallen to Naomi to teach Ruth about the faith.
When we share our faith with others, we may never know the effect it may have on their lives later on.
I am sure Naomi shared her faith with both daughters in law – yet only Ruth made it to Bethlehem.
Orphah fell by the way.
2. Naomi keeps her faith despite the odds
We read in Ruth 1:21 that Naomi: “The Lord has brought me back”
Despite the hardships and the loss of her husband and two sons, she keeps her faith.
Admittedly she sees the loss of her husband and two sons
as God’s punishment – when really it is a result of the family’s choices.
But despite the hurt, she keeps her faith.
She moaned her loss but God can handle that.
3. She cared for her daughters -in-law
She cared for her two daughters in law despite the difficulties it might cause her to lose them.
She had their interests ahead of hers.
She wasn’t selfish, even though it would leave her with no one to help her.
What can we learn from the Book of Ruth
God had a plan for Ruth’s life – a woman who most Jews would have considered beyond the pale.
And he has a plan for our lives too.
Despite being a nobody in this world, to God Ruth was a somebody.
The key to Ruth’s blessing was that she stepped out in faith and said to Naomi
“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.
Ruth stepped out in faith – much like Abraham.
Like Abraham she trust God and left her country to go to where God was worshiped – to Israel.
Though Ruth could not see it, God was working in her life – and we see the blessing God has for her right at the end of the story.
And so it is with us
So often we can’t see the end of the story in our lives, but God has a plan for each one of us
It is as we trust him with our lives, and step out in faith despite all the odds, God will accomplish his plans,if we allow him.
And then we will be blessed.