Choosing Faith Over Fear

 

Choosing Faith Over Fear

I’m going to attempt something ambitious this morning….this is what happens I suppose when Jeff is away…..but nonetheless, I’m am going to summarize an entire Old Testament story from the Book of Ruth….and whether I succeed or fail, I promise we’ll be finished on time!…..

In summarizing Ruth, I want you to take away specific, practical lessons that we can learn from each of the story’s main characters—and those main characters are…..if you’d like to write these down…..God, a man named Elimelech, his wife Naomi, a daughter-in-law named Ruth, and finally a man named Boaz.

Beyond the practical lessons I’ll unveil as we go, I also want you to hear and understand an important definition right up front…. and that definition is of providence…..providence. I’ll repeat this definition again a bit later in the message, but here is a good, working definition of providence:  Providence is the means by which God directs all things—both animate and inanimate, seen and unseen, good and evil—toward His worthy purposes.

So….. the Book of Ruth is about God…….so I want to probe a bit with some opening questions about your understanding of the God of Scripture:

First:  Do you believe that God….eternally existing in the Trinity as Father, Son, and Spirit….. is GOOD?

Next, Do you really believe God is sovereign?  By that, I mean do you really believe He is not only real…..but that He is completely and totally in control of everything?

How about this:  As One in control of everything, do you believe God is working……all the time….24/7 as it were……providentially……never resting…..never changing……For His GOOD purposes?

In other words, do you really believe that God is GOOD and that He works all the time for GOOD, because He is GOOD?

Here’s is one more question….and one that gets personal….Do you believe that in keeping with God’s many promises found in Scripture….in His Holy Word….that He is interested in the detail of your individual life and circumstances…..and that He is at work for GOOD, for you?  Do you believe He is truly aware of, and accounting for, every thought, every word, and every deed that we think, say and do?

The Bible strongly asserts all of these things about God to be unequivocally true…..A deep study of His attributes affirms His omniscience—He knows everything…..His omnipresence…as spirit, He is everywhere…..His omnipotence….He is the essence of power and nothing is beyond His abilities…..His immutability….He never changes…..His goodness….Jesus said, “only God is good,”…..His love for us….He made us in his image, He is the essence of love, He gave His only son for us….as its it written in John 3:16.

So, it would seem that if we are first and indeed saved, and by virtue of our conversion, we are indwelled with the Holy Spirit and therefore we’re open to understanding and knowing God as He is……that we would not ever find ourselves anxious or worried…..we would choose faith over any temptation to fear, always……

But let’s all be honest……If you’re like me, you get anxious or worried…..raise your hand if you never feel anxious or worried?

Why the disconnect?  Well, if you’re like me, you can “head” answer “YES” to all of these important doctrinal questions……..You’ve been taught sound doctrine…..you can generally pass a Bible test…..you know how to answer rightly in public…..especially in so-called “church public”

But what about the “secret you” that only God sees and knows? What about what is in your heart?......your heart…..that seat of self that just you and God alone can access…..

Again, if you’re honest, I’m guessing you probably struggle with fear, and even some doubt from time to time. You have moments when your faith wobbles a bit……

When God allows or orchestrates circumstances that test the strength of your faith….you may be tempted to make God smaller, or less capable, than He really is. He seems small because a really big circumstance has come into your life…..

Or, you may tempted to doubt God’s goodness in light of how bad and tragic your big circumstance seems, or maybe you wonder about God’s goodness in response to general discouragement regarding the world around us ……

You might look at a week’s worth of world news and be tempted to feel very fearful…. We have Iran, North Korea, terrorism, an anti-Christ culture headed straight down at super-sonic speed…..Somedays we can even be tempted to contemplate hopelessness…..

And then there is your own sin battle…..You may be in a personal sin situation where you’ve been praying that prayer for victory for the 1000th time and yet you fail again……. or maybe you’re wondering why your son or daughter seems to be drifting farther and farther away from God’s truth, and maybe even from you in particular……and so you’re tempted to believe God isn’t really there, or worse, that he doesn’t really care….or maybe that again, He isn’t good, or at least He isn’t interested in being good to you personally.

Well, if any of these points are hitting your heart…..you can exhale a bit because you are in good company!

In fact, these temptations are found evident in virtually every faith hero of the bible. Many wrestled mightily with fear and doubt in their own walk with God……..but always, in the end, they ultimately chose faith over fear!

Struggle is the reality of our human condition as we live out our lives in a sin-fallen world.

Fear and doubt temptations come to us because we have a sin nature, because the world is anti-Christ…..24/7 bombarding us with its lies…..and because we have an enemy that is real and that wants us defeated. As Jeff preached a couple of Sundays ago….the Christian life is war!

Well, this morning I want to strongly encourage you! This is an encouragement message!  I want you to see that as you grow in your knowledge of God that you can more and more choose faith over fear.

Ruth is an intimate story about God mainly, and then about seemingly unimportant people, at apparently insignificant times —Elimelech, Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz—

Ruth is a short 4-chapter book wedged in between Judges and First Samuel……..and it occurs in Israel’s history during the time of the Judges…… a time when spirit-filled appointees of God were leading sinful Israel

To best set the stage for today’s teaching I’m going to read two passages from Ruth that sort of bookend the story….First we’ll read Ruth 1, verses 1 through 5. This is a passage that launches the story….

And then I’ll read from Ruth 4, verses 13 through 17….and this is the end of the story passage that summarizes what God…in His goodness and providence….accomplished through the main characters of the story.

So, let’s go to Ruth 1:

Ruth 1:1–5: “In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.”

Alright….turn now over to Ruth 4:13–17

13 So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. 14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! 15 He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” 16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. 17 And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

There are the bookends, of the story so to say…..so let’s look now at what happens in between….and more importantly, at the choices the main characters make in the circumstances they find themselves in.

The time of the judges, as I said earlier, was  a time when spirit-filled appointees of God were leading sinful Israel,

The time of the judges revealed an identifiable cycle of sin and rescue for Israel as they occupied the promised land.

You’ll remember the main message of the Exodus….the story of how God brought Israel our of bondage and Egypt and brought them to the promise land……was that Yahweh….God… chose Israel …. He chose Israel not because they deserved to be chosen, but because He wanted to set His love on them and to save mankind through them…

He wanted them to live in right relationship with Him in order to bless all humanity… Exodus 19:6 recorded God speaking: “and you (Israel) shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

What does that mean?

Well, a priest was one who represented others before God. A kingdom of priests was expected to do so for all mankind. A priest also represented God to men and so a kingdom of priests was to represent God to all the nations, their obedience a testimony to all. Yahweh’s method to achieve His Kingdom of Priests was to set apart Israel, to give them the land, and to give them the law…which was the conditional Mosaic Covenant.

But what happened? Israel failed continually on their end of the conditional Mosaic Covenant. Time and time again, they chose idols over Yahweh, or made decisions in fear and not in faith.

So, in the time of the Judges in particular, Israel’s would sin, and Yahweh would respond with a form of punishment, often putting them under servitude to foreigners.

Israel would then suffer under the pressure of punishment and cry out in anguished supplication for rescue by Yahweh….

and He would answer… in His sovereign mercy….with deliverance through a new judge raised up.

Temporary security would result from obedience to Yahweh under the ruling judge, but then sadly, a more egregious return to sin would come.

It’s also very important to understand that Israel was clearly warned regarding Yahweh’s expected responses to the breaking of the Mosaic Covenant. In both Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28….God gave Israel very clear promises of blessings for their obedience……but also, alternatively, He gave crystal clear warnings of curses for disobedience.

They were without excuse!

So in Judges we see each successive cycle of sin, curse, supplication, salvation, security, and sin again, proved more corrupted than the previous one in terms of Israel’s depravity, the severity of Yahweh’s punishments, the increasingly flawed nature of the judges, and Israel’s ever degrading relationship with Yahweh—it was, in Israel’s checkered history, a spiritual low point!

Judges 17:6 captures the sense of drift and disintegration.

“ In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

Well, as chronicled in Ruth 1, Yahweh had delivered on a promised curse directed at Israel for their corporate disobedience…. This particular curse……coming just as warned……was a famine in the land impacting all of Judah, and, important to this story, the town of Bethlehem in particular……. And the famine meant all of the people were impacted, even the so-called regular, or average citizen people……John Q Public as it were…….

So a family man by the name of Elimelech is apparently hit hard by this famine and he decides to take his wife, Naomi, and their two sons to Moab – maybe like so many Alaskans left the State of Alaska to relocate to North Dakota or Texas because of the price of oil and the suffering state economy.

But there is more to know about Moab…..It was not Texas or North Dakota….Moab was not a friendly place…..so to say…..for a family relocating from Israel….in fact, Moab was a perennial enemy of Israel located on the east side of the Dead Sea. The country originated when Lot fathered Moab by an incestuous union with his oldest daughter (Gen 19:37).

Centuries later the Jews encountered opposition from Balak, the King of Moab, through the prophet Balaam (Num 22–25). During the time of the judges relations between Israel and Moab were not very good, In fact Judges 3:12–30 narrates an 18-year period wherein Moab woefully oppressed Israel….maybe a better comparison for our understanding is Moab was more like moving to North Korea, than to North Dakota….

But Elimelech believes he is between a rock and hard place circumstantially…... And, at this juncture of the story we’re tempted to side with Elimelech……who can blame this man for packing up in the midst of a threatening famine and moving away? Right? He’s just looking out for his family!

But I think a better way to look at Elimelech…. within the historical facts of the time… is that he was running from God in hopes of finding a better deal…

It’s not as though he was running to a better situation that God had meant for him….there was no job offer in Moab….and I doubt he received counsel from his fellow Israelites that Moab was a good idea…..

But it seems Elimelech was convinced Moab had to be better than what he had in Bethlehem under Yahweh’s care and provision.

Well, Elimelech made a terrible choice as the passage narrates, and folks, the blame was squarely on him….in fact, he made an arrogant and disobedient choice!

His choice was a manifestation of fear….and probably anger too…..

He could have stayed and chosen faith in the God of Israel who, though chastising his people in keeping with His warnings, was still fully and lovingly invested in Israel…..

God loved Israel!  ….And so, He loved Elimelech too! And the Scripture speaks throughout about God’s love!

…Deuteronomy 7:6 – 9 says this about God’s heart and desires for Israel. “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations”

Now as a dad, I love my children. This means I would die for them…..it also means I was willing to discipline them when they needed it. I brought chastisement out of love and for their best interest ultimately.

Thankfully, they all responded to my discipline in the loving manner intended. They did not read the pain of punishment as a reason to reject me or question my love for them. No one ran away to live with another family.  I would argue this is what Elimelech did…..he chose other gods, and he chose fear over faith.

So, what happened when Elimelech chose that path of self-reliance and not the path of submission in faith to the God who loves him?

Well, when people move, life happens and in Elimelech’s case, his sons marry Moabite women, one of whom is Ruth….

Then we see the wheels fall off…….Tragedy and Death! For reasons not included by the Holy Spirit, Elimelech and both sons die in Moab….and this is the last we hear of them.

Here is the practical lesson we should learn from of Elimelech:  when life squeezes, run to something….not away from something….find the wisdom and courage to decide rightly in tough circumstances through trusting God by faith!

So, the men leave three widows behind…Naomi, the wife and mom, and the two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth….

As you ponder the tragedy, try to place yourself there…..How would you feel? What would you do?

Naomi’s life has gone from bad to worse…..and the two daughters-in-law are found at the edge of survival as well……we’ve all been at the place where proverbial walls seem to be closing in on us….the secular tongue-in-cheek description of such sentiment is this: “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all!”

Well, it’s time to review to our definition of providence!  Providence is the means by which God directs all things—both animate and inanimate, seen and unseen, good and evil—toward His worthy purposes.

God’s good will always and ultimately prevails! No one can frustrate God’s purposes and plans. People cannot, nor can the rulers, authorities, cosmic powers over this present darkness, or the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places as it says in Ephesians 6:12……God has and will keep His covenant promises. Nothing can derail His salvation plan for mankind!

So maybe I’ll say it this way. God is God…..and no other being is, or ever can be.  Providence is this omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, immutable, eternal, loving God, sovereignly controlling His creation for His perfect purposes and for His glory.

Let’s now pick back up with the story’s plotline….. What do Naomi and the daughters-in-law do?....And what does God accomplish, providentially, through His sovereign control of circumstances, and their free will decision-making in those circumstances?

Let’s start with Naomi:  She is undone, she is embittered, she is portrayed to be a picture of defeat and depression, and she believes that things are not well between her and God…….she is suffering consequences from wrong choices…either her husband’s and her own….but nonetheless, she does learn that God has indeed provided food in Bethlehem and so she decides to go home to Bethlehem, from Moab.

Ruth 1:6 proves God’s faithfulness in disciplining Israel and underscores Elimelech’s unbelief:

Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the Lord had visited his people and given them food”

God, of course, in His own timing, brought blessing and health back to Judah, and now Naomi wants to go home. Like a loving parent, He ended the period of punishment for Israel. The teenager… corporate Israel…..was no longer grounded, so to say….

Naomi in unsure of what she’ll find back in Bethlehem, but now she wants to go home….

But she is still spiraling….. she goes so far as to urge her daughters-in-law, Orpha and Ruth, to leave her…to go back to their Moabite people, and to let Naomi return to Bethlehem alone.

Well, Orpah decides to leave….to cut her losses as it were….and fully return to Moabite culture and ways…..and the Scriptures do not give us much more than that about her.

Orpah becomes a footnote of history, somewhat like Elimelech who didn’t really trust God enough to stay in Bethlehem and chose what he perceived as the better future…the better deal, as it were, in Moab…….

Orpah and Elimelech represent the picture of the wide gate….the opposite of the narrow gate of faith described in Matthew 7:13–14: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy[a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

But then you have Ruth…..Ruth, precious, faithful Ruth…..she is the example we are to learn from and to follow!……Ruth, as the Scripture says, “clung to” Naomi. Look at Ruth 1:14–18 now:

14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.

15 And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” 18 And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.

This is extraordinary and pivotal! Ruth’s response is the unconditional, all-in, I-love-you-God-and-trust-you heart response God wants and rewards. This is rightly judging God to be big and good and loving in a manner that is a choice of faith over fear!

Ruth is here responding to God’s love for her……

Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:37  express how we are to return God’s loves for us:

Old Testament clarity is matched with New Testament affirmation: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Says Deuteronomy 6:5

And he (Jesus) said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” says Matthew 22:37

And this is the same “ah ha!,” epiphany awakening feel we see Peter express in John 6 when Jesus had finished speaking to many about Him being the Bread of Life and then how in John 6:66, we see that “many of His Disciples (these were people following, but not the twelve) turned back and no longer walked with Him.” Why did they bail? Well, Jesus had gone too radical for them and they were unsettled, if not afraid.

For those of you who were blessed by Randy at last week’s Worship in the Round, he preached on Peter’s response to Jesus’ next question to the twelve in that scene…..which we see in verse 67: “Do you want to go away as well?” he asked them…..And what did Peter say? in verses 68 and 69 Peter humbly replied: “Lord, to whom shall we go?” You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”  Good peter…..all in, faith over fear…..at least there in that critical gospel moment recorded for us.

So, Ruth becomes a loyal convert to a faith she did not grow up in, nor seek intentionally, but was introduced to her by God’s grace and providential care, and so she goes with Naomi back to Judah……back to Bethlehem in particular.

What does God do with these women next? One, now strong in faith—Ruth, as an all-in convert—and the other—Naomi—who is weakened, but still responding in faith….Naomi is still choosing to go home to her roots, to her family, and her faith.

Let’s spend some more time on Naomi:  She seems to me a picture of someone returning to God after a woodshed experience…..

Returning to God is a reality that is appealed for over and over in both Old and New Testament Scripture.

Let me read five OT verses rapid fire to show you this….

Joel 2:13:  “and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
and he relents over disaster.

Hosea 14:1: “Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God,
for you have stumbled because of your iniquity.”

Zechariah 1:3: “Therefore say to them, Thus declares the Lord of hosts: Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts”

Nehemiah 1:9:  “but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there”

Job 22:23:  “If you return to the Almighty you will be built up;
if you remove injustice far from your tents”

You get the picture….God, in His grace, will take you back!

Well, Naomi and Ruth go to Bethlehem….Naomi returning with a broken and contrite heart and Ruth running to a God she wants to know more intimately.

The Practical Lesson we can learn from Naomi is this:  Faith is the antidote to discouragement and bitterness … and we’ll see how true this is as we keep going with the plotline….

….and now back in Bethlehem, they are faced with the challenge of living alone…. as two single women…..without husbands to help with protection and provision as was expected in the culture of the day.

But God has them in His caring hands….God is interested in their immediate circumstances, but He is also intentionally advancing His gracious Plan for the Salvation of all humanity through them….these two seemingly insignificant people!

In God’s perfect design and timing, Judah/Bethlehem/home is a place where a man named Boaz lives…and Boaz is positioned to be the circumstantial savior of these two struggling women….

But Boaz is also…..In God’s sovereign design and providential purposes….. uniquely positioned to serve as something called a kinsmen redeemer for Naomi and Ruth, and in a manner that will make possible the birth of King David in accordance with God’s promises.

Let’s look first at King David’s bloodline…..Turn quickly in your Bibles to Genesis 49:8–12:

““Judah,[a] your brothers will praise you;
your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;
your father’s sons will bow down to you.
You are a lion’s cub, Judah;
you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
10 The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,[b]
until he to whom it belongs[c] shall come
and the obedience of the nations shall be his.
11 He will tether his donkey to a vine,
his colt to the choicest branch;
he will wash his garments in wine,
his robes in the blood of grapes.
12 His eyes will be darker than wine,
his teeth whiter than milk.”

These verses come from the second to last chapter of Genesis when the Patriarch Jacob, his life coming to its end, calls his sons together to bless them and to prophesy….. he is giving them a picture of the future “telling them what shall happen to you in days to come” as it says in Verse 49:1.

The timing is, of course, before the drama of Exodus….these things are said well before the story of Moses, the plagues and the dramatic move out of Egypt, Mount Sinai, the Wilderness, et. cetera….and it was some 650 years before kingship and national prominence belonged to the bloodline of Judah, which became a dynasty through King David and King Solomon.

But these verses promise kingship to Judah and most importantly, they promise King Jesus…. The ultimate righteous savior and ruler who will come through this same human bloodline….the line of Jacob’s son Judah….look at verse 10:

10 The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,[b]
until he to whom it belongs[c] shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.

Folks, God had Boaz in mind when He gave Jacob these words and when Moses was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write them down…..But here is what you need to hear today……

God had you and He had me in mind right then and there as well…. just as you’ll see He had Naomi and Ruth in mind….. when he made these promises as captured in His Holy Word in Genesis.

Our God of the Bible is controlling His creation…he is driving history, not reacting to anyone or anything. We should be both awed and comforted by this…..

So let’s look a little more closely at Boaz….. Boaz was a wealthy kinsmen of Naomi’s late husband, Elimelech….and he was also a very faithful man.

In fact, John Piper described Boaz as a “God-saturated man.”

Boaz was directly related to Elimelech and therefore, through the Jewish law systems, he was positioned morally and legally to help Naomi and Ruth as no one else could.

He was a kinsmen redeemer…… meaning that he was a male relative who, according to various laws found in the Pentateuch, had the privilege or responsibility to act for a relative who was in trouble, danger, or need of vindication.

Boaz was also wealthy, which gave him opportunity to well fulfill any support obligations to family….and now, specifically to Naomi …..

So, you have a God-saturated, wealthy, male relative who honorable and rightly embraces family responsibility under the law…..and Ruth was is now included in this obligation through her family connection to Naomi….even though she was a foreigner and not racially and spiritually and Israelite.

Hmmmm…..as we glibly say today……imagine that folks……what are the odds? Is the God of Scripture a good and rescuing God?

Here’s more on the role of kinsman-redeemer….the idea is primarily explained in Leviticus 25 and in Deuteronomy 26, which tells us that in the case of an Israelite man’s death in which he fails to leave behind a son, the closest male relative of the deceased man is commanded to take his widow as wife and both redeem, or take ownership of, the deceased man’s land, and provide a son to carry on the deceased father’s name.

So, the table is set so to say, not just for Naomi and Ruth to be circumstantially saved….they will be economically provided for……there is also a possibility of Boaz considering Ruth to be his wife…..there is wind in the sails in that direction at least……

Well, Ruth, in seeking provision for herself and Naomi, goes to the harvest fields to glean…..

Gleaning was an Old Testament provision for the wealthy farmers to bless the poor in need.  Poor people could go in behind the harvesters of a ripe filed and pick up what the harvesters may have dropped, or they could cut what the harvester couldn’t cut. Whatever fell off the wagon, as it were, they could pick up.

Well, guess whose field Ruth happens to choose to glean? It is Boaz’s field…and in the text….which I encourage you to read in close detail…..we see Boaz taking notice of Ruth who is behaving as a godly woman….a virtuous woman….and we see Boaz interacting as a God-saturated man with all of his employees.

The text then portrays a truly beautiful progression of choices conversations, and events……all perfectly timed……within which the Boaz, Ruth, and Naomi all make God honoring choices—the Mosaic Law connections to Boaz are revealed and understood….Boaz seeks to fulfill his responsibilities, while romance is gently and honorably kindled toward Ruth. What God had ordained long ago clicked into place perfectly as these godly characters chose faith over fear.

Their choices of faith led to Naomi’s redemption through her “kinsmen redeemer,” Boaz; and moreover, Ruth and Boaz fall in love, marry, and have a son……as I read to you from Ruth 4: 13–17:

Who gave them conception and the gift of a son?  Who did the women surrounding Naomi  give credit to for her redemption? Who providentially used very ordinary people so long ago to advance our personal salvation through faith, by grace, in Christ….David’s heir?

Of course, it’s the God of the Bible…..you have in your hands this morning, this very Holy Word…the Bible…you can know God more deeply through immersing yourself in it!

The practical lessons we can learn from the story’s characters Ruth and Boaz are these….

From Ruth, it’s commit early and all the way….from Boaz its possible to be godly in an ungodly culture and God will use you if you are!

Remember, Boaz was an exemplary man of faith in time….the time of the Judges….when most people living then were not!

So, all is well and good as Ruth closes…it’s a happy ending, despite deeply tragic circumstances and outcomes for some along the way…but what was really accomplished?

Well, mainly, God’s salvation plan FOR mankind was continued in uninterrupted motion……just as God had always promised it would from the beginning in the Garden of Eden, as captured in Genesis 3.

More unconditional covenant promises would come in time of course…..to Noah, to Abraham, to David in his day…..and God unfailingly proved faithful in advancing every single one…..

But here, the son of Boaz and Ruth…..the male heir produced through the marriage of Boaz and Ruth was David’s grandfather.  David’s heir, of course is Jesus Christ!

But Several additional theological realities emerged in Ruth as well….and I give credit to John MacArthur here…..

First, Ruth the Moabitess, illustrated that God’s redemptive plan extended beyond the Jews to Gentiles

Second, Ruth demonstrated that women are co-heirs with men of God’s salvation grace (Gal 3:28).

Galatians 3:28 says: “28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[a] nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”

Third, Ruth portrayed the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31:10.

Fourth, Ruth described God’s sovereign and providential care of seemingly unimportant people, at apparently insignificant times, which later prove to be monumentally crucial to accomplishing God’s will.

Fifth, Ruth along with other unlikely women, Tamar (Ge 38), Rahab (Jos 2), and Bathsheba (2 Sa 11, 12) stand in the genealogy of the Messianic line (4:17, 22; cf. Mt 1:5).

Sixth, Boaz, as a type of Christ, became Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer (4:1–12). This is a picture of how Jesus Christ is our perfect and permanent Kinsman redeemer.

And Finally, as we said…….David’s right (and thus Christ’s right) to the throne of Israel is traced back to Judah as foretold in Gen 49.

In sum……Yahweh directed the paths of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz to bless the whole world, first through King David, and ultimately through David’s future son, King Jesus.

Ok….pretty amazing don’t you think?…..but before we end, I need to ask you one more important question:  What happens when you trust and obey God in honest faith and the temporal result is not at all a happy ending?

Well, Here is maybe the most important point of the day……trusting God means trusting God unconditionally…..In other words, we don’t expect any temporal outcome ….we simply trust that God knows what He is doing and that Good will come of it ultimately.

Naomi, when she decides to go home, but more so Ruth from the beginning……they did exactly this…..they did know the future, so they simply said “yes” to God and then made right choices on a day-by-day basis.

They were rewarded temporally in this particular story, but mainly their reward was to be mightily used in God’s greater, eternal plan of redemption. The best rewards are eternal!

We have to remember that God is always working at a transcendent level, because He is transcendent.

Consider Jesus’ disciples who became the first Apostles after the resurrection…. How did they all fare temporally?

Aside from Judas who betrayed Jesus and did not experience the risen Christ, each one… and also including the Apostle Paul was very uniquely added to the number of men who interacted with the resurrected Christ and were in that way commissioned as Apostles….each one met an unhappy ending…at least in terms of human, worldly standards:

But let’s take a quick second before we end and consider these guys…..They were not the kind of group you might have expected Jesus to send forth on his mission to reach the world. There was nothing special or spectacular about them…..save maybe Paul in his pre-converted time as a Pharisee ….The other apostles were just ordinary working men.

But Jesus formed them into the backbone of the church and gave them the most extraordinary task imaginable: calling the entire world, including the mightiest empire ever known, to repentance and faith in the risen Christ. You can be sure that any educated, first-century Roman citizen would have laughed at any prediction that within three centuries the Christian faith would be the official faith of the empire.

Many wonder how the 12 apostles died and here is what we know…….The New Testament tells of the fate of only two of the apostles: Judas, who betrayed Jesus and then went out and hanged himself, and James the son of Zebedee, who was executed by Herod about 44 AD (Acts 12:2).

What about the rest of them?

Reports and legends abound and they are not always reliable, but it is safe to say that the apostles went far and wide as heralds of the message of the risen Christ.

One thing we do know is that they suffered for their faith and in most cases met violent deaths on account of their bold witness.

Peter and Paul were both martyred in Rome about 66 AD, during the persecution under Emperor Nero. Paul was beheaded. Peter was crucified, upside down at his request, since he did not feel he was worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord.

Andrew, Thomas, Philip, Matthew, Bartholomew, James, Simon, and Matthias all are said to have met an untimely and  violent death, as martyrs for the faith.

John is the only one of the group generally thought to have died a natural death from old age. He was the leader of the church in the Ephesus area and is said to have taken care of Mary the mother of Jesus in his home. During Domitian's persecution in the middle 90's, he was exiled to the island of Patmos. There he is credited with writing the last book of the New Testament--the Revelation.

After the death of the apostles, we do not find great missionary figures of the stature of Paul. Yet the faith continued to spread like wildfire -- even though Christianity was declared an illegal religion

What are we to say about these faithful, obedient men? I think we should say ……oh, if all could have that kind of beautiful, all-in faith that leads to complete obedience.

Their rewards are eternal and oh, they are the best……

So, when life squeezes….or when its going great, what are we to think and do? We are to thank the source of blessing in the good times and we are to trust the source of suffering in the tougher times. We are to always choose faith over fear!

There is a beautiful hymn we’ve all probably sung with a refrain that has stuck with me over the years….the lyrics were written by a man named John Henry Sammis and lived from 1846-1919……

 

Trust and obey,
For there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus,
But to trust and obey