Summary: Ruth chose to follow Naomi back to Bethlehem, declaring "Your God will be my God". That decision had results far beyonf what Ruth might have draemed possible
In that reading from Ruth tonight, we actually had quite a big chunk of that book of four chapters, which has been described as of the most charming stories ever written. Certainly it sits here in the midst of the history books of the Old Testament, and it seems something very different. Here we have no talk of kings or prophets or wars; nothing of that sort here. Rather a rather charming story, yes, and a short love story. And that may well provoke the question; â€œWhat is this story, this love story, of Ruth doing here. What is it doing here as part of Holy Writ? What is this deeply personal story doing here?
But that in part is the answer. For this very personal story has a key place in Godâ€™s purposes, and together with its personal touch has much to tell and to teach us. Itâ€™s central character is Ruth, one of the daughters of Naomi, a woman who, though born an Israelite had gone to live in Moab because of famine, along with her husband. When her husband dies, her sons marry Moabite women. This was not forbidden, but we read in Deuteronomy that no Moabite may enter the assembly of the Lord (23:3). They have daughters and it looks as if they have settled down in Moab. But then the husbands die, and Naomi is left with her two Moabite daughters-in-law. She decides to return to her home country, a bitter woman, and advises her daughters-in-law to stay and have the chance of remarriage..
One of these is Ruth, the central character of the book and story which bears her name. This story shows how God works through people, blesses people and how through tem he fulfils his purpose. And in chapter two tonight we read of how Ruth met Boaz, the man through whom he would touch Ruth, bless her and further his purposes. If we look right to the end of Ruth, in chapter 4 we read of Boaz taking Ruth as his wife, of their having a son, Obed, and we read then: he (Obed) was the father of Jesse, the father of David. David, who was the most glorious of Old Testament kings, a man described as being after Godâ€™s heart, David who, in many ways prefigured his later descendant, the Lord Jesus Christ, or as the hymn writer has it â€œgreat Davidâ€™s greater sonâ€. David in his person combined the roles of priest and king, and prefiguring the priestly and kingly roles which belonged to Jesus- King of Kings and our Great High Priest.
We see much more prefigured in this story too. At the start of chapter 2 we read that Naomi had a relative on her husbandâ€™s side from the clan of Elimelech, a man of standing whose name was Boaz. Now under Israelâ€™s laws, this man had the role as â€˜Kinsman Redeemerâ€™, with the responsibility of protecting the interests of needy members of his extended family. And such of course was Ruth; a foreigner, a woman, who along with her mother-in-law had no immediate means of support. So, later on in this book we read that Boaz did become kinsman-redeemer for Ruth. In this role, he prefigure their descendant, the Lord Jesus Christ, who came from heavenâ€™s throne to join the human race, so that were his â€˜kinsmenâ€™, and he would be our redeemer.
But the very picture which the book of Ruth presents us is with Godâ€™s gracious dealings, of God working his purpose out, and I want to begin by looking at the way in which Ruth comes to be part of that blessing and part of that plan. Itâ€™s first worthwhile noting that Ruth was a Moabite woman and as a Moabite she would be a Gentile, one not part of Godâ€™s chosen people, one not to be accepted â€˜into the assemblyâ€™. And yet, God uses this woman- a Gentile as part of his purpose, and that shows Godâ€™s greater plan to extend his purposes, his salvation to Gentiles as well as Jews. In one of the so-called Servant Songs, Isaiah says of Godâ€™s Servant, I will make you a light for the Gentiles that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth. (Isa 49:6) .
So here we have this girl, this daughter of the widowed Naomi, who is a Moabitess, and who returns with Naomi to her home town, which was Bethlehem. Right back there Bethlehem had a very special place in Godâ€™s plan.
But the key to Ruthâ€™s place in Godâ€™s plan lies in the fact that when Naomi decides to return to her home country, and has said to her daughters-in-law that they would be best off staying put that Ruth, we read, â€˜clung to herâ€™ The key bit is in chapter 1 verse 16: where you go, I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God. Itâ€™s that choice of Ruthâ€™s that Naomiâ€™s God will be her God; the one true and living God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that this is the One who will be her God. Itâ€™s that decision which places her into Godâ€™s blessing and into Godâ€™s purposes, and as one who would play an important role in that purpose. We never know how important that decision, â€œyour God will be my Godâ€ can be. Our decision to let the living God be our God, the God of our lives can have consequences we may never dream of. We may think that nothing but our salvation hangs on it- a danger maybe of a very â€œpersonalâ€ form of Christianity, but that is NOT the case. We thereby put ourselves not only into the way of Godâ€™s blessing, we put ourselves also into the way of Godâ€™s purpose.