Summary: First in a four-part series on the book of Ruth; from chapter 1, the faithlessness of Elimilech and Naomi and the faithful, loyal pledge of Ruth.
Trinity Baptist Church June 10, 2007
Ruth: God redeems
The Road Home
Chuck Swindoll describes how -- several decades ago -- Atlantic codfish were transported from the coast to the middle of the US. The shippers had problems at first. Their early freezing methods left the fish flavorless after they thawed. So, next, they tried shipping fish live, in tanks -- but, the fish got to their destination soft and mushy because of the lack of exercise in the tanks.
Then someone had a brilliant idea: they would send the cod in tanks, along with their natural enemy -- the cat fish. And from the time the codfish left the coast, they got chased around the tank by the catfish. When they arrived at market, they were as fresh as when they were when they were caught -- no loss of flavor or texture.
Swindoll says -- each of us is -- in a “tank” -- of inescapable circumstances -- those circumstances can be painful enough. But there are also God appointed "cat fish" to bring enough tension to us, to keep us alive, alert, fresh, and growing. It’s all part of God’s project to shape our character so we will be more like his Son.
It’s insightful for us to study some of the character-shaping stories God provides in the OT. Describing OT accounts, the NT says, these things were written for our benefit. These flesh and blood narratives remind us of something. God rarely chooses great people to use in significant ways. In almost every instance, God takes ordinary people -- and He allows wounding and pain and challenge to come to them. And then, when they trust Him, He gathers up all those details and events -- and He shapes them to bless and use those people.
If you’re familiar with the book of Ruth, you know how God goes about doing that.
Introduction to Ruth
Ruth is one of my favorite OT books, in part because it‘s so unique. It’s one of only two Bible books named for a woman. It’s the only OT book named for a person not born Jewish. Ruth is a book with a hero. And it’s not Ruth -- it’s not Boaz. The hero in this account is God.
It’s God, demonstrating Himself and His power in some startling ways. Even though we get only limited direct descriptions of God, His fingerprints are all over these chapters.
Ruth is a redemption story. As God uses Boaz to show loyal love and to redeem the lives of Naomi and Ruth, God illustrates His strong ability to redeem people. Ruth is also a story of God’s invisible hand; it’s what’s called God’s providence. God moves quietly behind the scenes -- and He suddenly shows loyal love -- the Hebrew word is hesed. And God blesses people who could have given up on Him; then He uses them for His purposes.
That word Providence: means God orchestrates everything to accomplish His purpose.
We can understand that if we realize there are two ways God acts in our world. One is through miracles, the other is providence. God is always doing things in the world. For some of those actions, He chooses the miraculous. A miracle happens when God takes the normal, everyday nature of things and suspends it -- he “stops the flow” and injects a miracle. There’s no natural explanation for those God driven events. There’s no relationship to what humans call “normal“. Someone is raised from the dead; there’s a miraculous healing where healing was impossible. In our time, miracles happen almost every day in Muslim countries where people are having dreams and visions of Jesus Christ and putting their faith in Him.
When miracles happen, God invades space-time history and stops or changes its normal flow. Then, He sets it back in motion again. A miracle is God invading the natural.
Then there’s providence. Providence means God takes all the diverse elements of the normal and -- He weaves them and turns them -- and He incorporates and orchestrates them --- He makes them work together to do what He desires. The Bible informs us that the Omnipotent God easily takes on a dozen or a thousand events and situations and transforms them to His will.
There’s something Ruth will help us grasp: if you understand that God is not only sovereign by miraculous intervention, but also by powerful orchestration, you become confident and content in Him. Contented people know that God orders everything for His purposes.
This book of Ruth testifies: “This is what our God is like!!” If you’ll read and re-read Ruth, you’ll see that message seeping out of relationships, situations and people. Everything here proclaims there is a great powerful God Who redeems and Who cares about your situation.