Summary: The story of Ruth is a story of redemption, inclusion, and faith taken from the whole book of Ruth in the Bible
Text: Book of Ruth
CHCC: March 3, 2013
Fifty days after Passover, the Jews celebrate a festival called Shavuot … it is also called Pentecost. (This year it will be celebrated May 15-16.) It was on Pentecost that the Church was born … Peter preached the first gospel sermon, and 3,000 people were baptized.
It’s interesting that during the festival of Pentecost, the entire book of Ruth is read publicly. No one knows for sure why this tradition exists. But the story of Ruth and the beginning of the church have a definite connection. Both are stories of REDEMPTION. Jesus came to Redeem His Church. In the end of the book, Ruth is rescued by her Kinsman Redeemer.
The book of Ruth is considered a literary masterpiece. When Benjamin Franklin was Ambassador to France, he attended a group who reviewed literary masterpieces … interestingly, the group called themselves the Infidel’s Club … which tells you all you need to know about their respect for the Bible. Well, Benjamin Franklin pulled a fast one on them.
He read the book of Ruth to them, but changed the names so they wouldn’t recognize it. The group rated it one of the most beautiful short stories they had heard and demanded to know where he found it. You can imagine how he enjoyed tell them it was straight out of the Bible.
The main characters of this story are Ruth, her mother-in-law Naomi, and a man named Boaz. The setting is Moab and then Bethlehem during the days of the Judges … over a thousand years before Jesus was born. The story begins with Ruth as a young Moabite woman. Her future looks bright. She has a young husband and strong family ties with her sister-in-law and mother-in-law.
And then everything fell apart. Ruth’s husband, father-in-law, and brother-in-law all died, leaving 3 women with no income, no protection, and basically no future. Ruth, Orpha, and Naomi are left with nothing but their grief.
1. Ruth’s Grief – Ruth and Naomi
Eventually Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi, decided to leave Moab and return to her home village of Bethlehem, and Ruth faces a choice. She can stay in Moab like her sister-in-law, Orpha. Or she can leave behind everything familiar and go with Naomi. Her words to Naomi give an amazing example of loyalty and love and faith. Ruth replied to Naomi,
“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. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (I imagine Ruth would have been shocked to know those words would become so famous!)
When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her. So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. Ruth 1:16-18
Ruth was able to look beyond her own loss and reach out to help Naomi. She turned her grief into an opportunity to bless someone else. This is never easy to do. It’s hard to focus on anyone else’s problems when our own loss seems unbearable.
I haven’t had to go through the kind of tragedy Ruth faced, but I’ve seen other people turn their pain into blessing in the same way Ruth did … by reaching out to help someone else. Many times I’ve seen people here at CHCC use their own troubles to help someone else who’s going through the same kind of thing.
One of the first people I met when I came to CHCC was George Farwell … a man who was in remission from cancer … and from that time on he spent time visiting cancer patients in the hospital and giving them encouragement.
I remember a lady in Susan’s home-town, Dalhart, TX, who turned tragedy into blessing. Alice Knight’s husband died young and a few years later her teen-aged son died in an accident. Losing both your husband and your son is more grief than most people have to endure. But Alice Knight used her loss as a way to help someone else. She used the money she had set aside for her son to pay college tuition for a boy in Susan’s church named Bernie Frasier who wanted to go into the ministry. During the summer, she also let Bernie live rent-free in her house.
You see, Bernie had his own troubles. His parents were both alcoholics, which left him fending for himself most of time. He wanted to go to Ozark Bible College, but there was no way he could have done it on his own. As it turned out, Bernie has been in ministry for many years and has a wonderful wife and kids. His life was transformed because Alice Knight chose to turn her grief into a gift.