Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

1-25-05

Title: Ruth and Naomi

 

Theme: Messages from the Book of Ruth.

 

Text: But Ruth said, “Entreat me not 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” (Ruth I: 16).

 

Bible Reading: Ruth 1:1-18 (Living)

 

1,2 Long ago when judges ruled in Israel, a man named Elimelech, from Bethlehem, left the country because of a famine and moved to the land of Moab. With him were his wife, Naomi, and his two sons, Mahlon and Chilion.

3 During the time of their residence there, Elimelech died and Naomi was left with her two sons.

4,5 These young men, Mahlon and Chilion, married girls of Moab, Orpah and Ruth. But later, both men died, so that Naomi was left alone, without her husband or sons.

6,7 She decided to return to Israel with her daughters-in-law, for she had heard that the Lord had blessed his people by giving them good crops again.

8 But after they had begun their homeward journey, she changed her mind and said to her two daughters-in-law, "Why don't you return to your parents' homes instead of coming with me? And may the Lord reward you for your faithfulness to your husbands and to me.

9 And may he bless you with another happy marriage." Then she kissed them, and they all broke down and cried.

10 "No," they said. "We want to go with you to your people."

11 But Naomi replied, "It is better for you to return to your own people. Do I have younger sons who could grow up to be your husbands?

12 No, my daughters, return to your parents' homes, for I am too old to have a husband. And even if that were possible, and I became pregnant tonight, and bore sons

13 would you wait for them to grow up? No, of course not, my daughters; oh, how I grieve for you that the Lord has punished me in a way that injures you."

14 And again they cried together, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye, and returned to her childhood home; but Ruth insisted on staying with Naomi.

15 "See," Naomi said to her, "your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; you should do the same."

16 But Ruth replied, "Don't make me leave you, for I want to go wherever you go and to live wherever you live; your people shall be my people, and your God shall be my God;

17 I want to die where you die and be buried there. May the Lord do terrible things to me if I allow anything but death to separate us."

18 And when Naomi saw that Ruth had made up her mind and could not be persuaded otherwise, she stopped urging her.

 

 

Introduction

 

The book of Ruth opens with the crystal-clear statement that the events recorded there took place in the days when the judges ruled; which was around 1200 B.C.

 

I have heard it said that the little book of Ruth is the greatest love story ever written, and I believe there is something very important and wonderful for us there.

 

The passage I read tells us that once upon a time, long ago and far away, in the small village of Bethlehem, there lived a man named Elimelech, his wife, Naomi, and their two sons Mahlon and Chilion.

 

Elimelech owned a small plot of land, where he grew barley, and around the border of his plot olive and almond trees grew.  

 

Then one winter the life-sustaining rains failed to fall.

 

Without them, crops failed, and springs and even the deepest wells dried up. 

 

Panic struck the area.

 

A man could not feed four hungry adults, so Elimelech and his family gathered up their meager belongings, and like a hundred million refugees before and since, made their way to another land.

 

The text doesn’t say that God intended for Elimelech to leave his home in Bethlehem.

 

It was a decision that Elimelech made by himself.

 

Hundreds of years earlier, God told Abraham to leave his homeland, but that wasn’t the case with Elimelech.  

 

Elimelech and Naomi sinned when they left Judah for enemy country.

 

They should have stayed and waited out the famine, because it is better to be hungry and in the will of God than to have a full stomach and be out of His will.

 

The family traveled east, down the steep hills of Judea, and across the Jordan River to Moab.

 

The Moabites were not friendly toward the Israelites; throughout Israel’s history the Moabites often antagonized the Israelites.

 

Imagine that family making their sad trek into a foreign land, where the people practiced polygamy and idol worship.

.

They were Judeans living among the ancient enemies of their own people.

 

Not long after settling in Edom, Elimelech became ill and died.

 

But Naomi still had her sons.

 

They were her source of pride and security. 

 

Shortly after the death of their father, the boys married Moabite girls, Ruth and Orpah, who were Gentiles and pagans. 

 

With the passage of two years, both sons died, leaving three widows in one household in a day when there was no work for women. 

 

Elimelech’s departure from Bethlehem did not keep him and his two sons from dying in a foreign land, and leaving his wife Naomi perhaps more destitute and isolated than if she had remained at Bethlehem among her friends and relatives.

 

You can run away from famine, but you cannot escape death.

 

Naomi and her daughters-in-law were desperate and overwhelmed by their bad situation. 

 

The plight of a widow in biblical days was for the most part very uncertain.

 

Young widows were allowed to stay in their father’s home, but an older widow whose parents were dead was dependent upon her children for support.

 

Now, without children and living in a strange land, Naomi may die if someone wouldn’t take her in.

 

She believed that God had dealt harshly with her.

 

Naomi believed, because of her personal losses, that God had turned away from her, and therefore, she decided to reciprocate by turning away from Him.

 

In fact, Naomi changed her name to Mara, which in Hebrew means “bitterness.” 

 

She felt that she had been dealt a bitter blow by God.

 

Naomi sinned by getting bitter and blaming God for her plight.

 

Naomi means “pleasant” and Mara means “bitter.”

 

But it was her decision to go to Moab, so why blame God?

 

Remember, a “root of bitterness” can poison your life and the people around you, so avoid carrying grudges.

 

And, although God does not prevent the painful consequences of our sins, He does overrule us and our sins so that His purposes are fulfilled.

 

And by the grace of God, Naomi’s emptiness will become fullness, and her sorrow will turn to joy.

 

Finally, Naomi got word that there was rain and fertility again in Judah. 

 

So, after ten years of tragedy, she decided to return to the only place in the world where her husband had owned a piece of ground. 

 

She would make her way back to Bethlehem. 

 

It must have been a tearful scene when those three women reached the border between Moab and Judah. 

 

They lifted up their voices and cried.

 

Naomi said, “Go back to your homes. There’s no hope that I can have other sons whom you can marry, and even if I could, who would want to wait so long?”

 

They said, “No, we won’t go!” 

 

But the mother-in-law insisted.

 

As they stood there crying, Orpah kissed Naomi goodbye and left her to return home.

 

But Ruth refused to go back; instead, she clung to her mother-in-law, and begged her to let her stay.

 

Naomi reminded her that her sister-in-law had gone back to her own people and also to her gods and then she suggested that Ruth should do the same!

 

Today, we can see that Naomi sinned by urging her daughters-in-law to go home.

 

She did not want to take two Moabite women back to Bethlehem with her and reveal the family’s disobedience to God.

 

Imagine a Jewess sending them back to their false gods!

 

But Ruth had come to trust in the God of Israel and she refused to go back.

 

This was certainly the lowest point of Naomi’s spiritual life and serves as a fitting climax to the weakness that was so obvious in her family.

 

She returned to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law, Naomi, and by doing that, she was denouncing her own family and religion.

 

I believe Naomi must have learned something; that even in the midst of the greatest suffering and adversity; God is good, and kind, and full of mercy.

 

Making the Best of a Bad Situation

 

When Naomi and Ruth reached Bethlehem, the neighbors said, “Is this Naomi come home again”?

 

She said, “No, call me Mara, for my name is now bitterness.” 

 

Even though they were home, there was no work and no security. 

 

But, Ruth was young, vigorous, and healthy and decided she would do what she could to meet their needs. 

 

She did what was probably the only thing she could do; she went into the barley fields during harvest and gleaned behind the harvesters.

 

Gleaning was a type of welfare system that helped the poor.

 

During the harvest, the farmers would leave some of the grain standing, so the needy could pick it for food or to sell for money to buy food. 

 

That’s what is meant by “gleaning.”

 

It was there in the barley fields that Ruth got the attention of the workers and then the owner of the field, Boaz. 

 

He passed the word to the harvesters, “Leave a little extra for her.” 

 

When she went home that night, in her apron she carried a half bushel of barley. 

 

Can you imagine how excited the two women must have been! 

 

But that was nothing compared to Naomi’s excitement when she learned the name of the man who owned the field and who had been so generous to her daughter-in-law. 

 

Boaz was a kinsman of Elimelech, and that had great implications. 

 

You see, Israel had an ancient law called the kinsman-redeemer.

 

It said that if a woman’s husband dies, and she has no children, then one of her husband’s relatives can marry her.

 

But that’s another part of the story.

 

Naomi’s life is a model of the way God works through a woman who moves forward, even in the midst of tragedy and trial, actively seizing every opportunity God provides rather than waiting passively for something to happen

 

But, Naomi had not always responded appropriately during hard times.

 

Even though she acknowledged God’s working in her life, she misjudged God, for example, when she said that she left Bethlehem full.

 

Actually it had been the emptiness of famine that had driven her family away from their homeland.

 

Next, she accused God of bringing her back empty, and indeed she had lost her husband and sons, but in their place God had given her Ruth, a devoted daughter-in-law.

 

By focusing on the negative, Naomi became so bitter that she could not see the good and positive plans of God at work in her life.

 

But, Naomi lives on the pages of the Bible as a true heroine.

 

Her strong faith during years of hardship and her careful tutoring of her young protégé Ruth under difficult circumstances, shows that she is a woman of deep spiritual understanding.

 

The result of her wisdom shines throughout the Scriptures, even today.

 

Ruth is another very special woman.

 

She willingly accepted an unsettled future and bound herself by a solemn oath not only to Naomi, but also to the God of Israel.

 

Ruth officially joined the people whose God was Yahweh.

 

He had become her God as well as Naomi’s.

 

Their lives were now linked together forever by a common faith that extended beyond passing companionship.

 

Abraham left home after being commanded to do so, by God.

 

But, Ruth left her pagan homeland on her own initiative, despite the protest of her mother-in-law, in order to come under the “wings” of God.

 

Ruth offered herself first to Naomi and ultimately to God.

 

Ruth’s Conversion to Faith in Naomi’s God.

 

Ruth was a gentle woman and a woman of faith. 

 

She gave up her family, her nationality, and her gods in order that she might give her allegiance to Naomi and to Yahyeh, the Lord God of Israel.

 

I wonder why Ruth gave up her home to go with Naomi.

 

The text doesn’t really tell us, and so we are left to our imaginations. 

 

I wonder if it was the quality of life she had seen in the family of Elimelech and Naomi that attracted her.

 

Or it could be what she observed in Naomi when she lost her husband and sons. 

 

Maybe it was the way Naomi handled grief that caused Ruth to feel such an admiration for her mother-in-law that she wanted to know her God and embrace her faith. 

 

Ruth promised Naomi that she would go wherever she went and wherever she lived, and that Naomi’s people would be her people, and Naomi’s God would be her God.

 

In so doing, Ruth clearly proclaimed her desire to become a follower of the Lord and of the people of Israel.

 

Ruth’s vow not to leave Naomi was in itself a confession of her faith in the God of Israel.

 

She said, “Entreat me not to leave thee” meaning “do not insist that I return.”

 

Her words are probably the strongest expression of personal commitment by one human being to another found anywhere in Scripture.

 

Without a doubt, it reveals a genuine spiritual decision and the character of Ruth’s determination to do what was right.

 

Her correct decision would lead to untold blessings in the future!

 

It is a testimony to the influence of her mother-in-law that Ruth was willing to entrust herself to the God whom she worshiped

 

They Lived Happily Ever After

 

The lovely story was played out. 

 

The young woman gleaning in the barley field caught the eye of the owner. 

 

She went home to tell her mother-in-law that his name was Boaz and discovered that he was a kinsman. 

 

This meant Boaz could claim Elimelech’s property, including his daughter-in-law Ruth, and Ruth would have security and know love again.

 

But there was a complication. 

 

Boaz was not the next of kin; he was not first in line.

 

A drama was played out at the city gate. 

 

Boaz and his relative bargained back and forth. 

 

Boaz said to the next of kin, “Would you like to redeem Elimelech’s property?” 

 

“Oh yes, sure I would,” he said.

 

“Along with the property you must marry Ruth, his daughter-in-law,” Boaz replied.

 

“Not so fast,” said the next of kin.

 

You see, if he married Ruth, the law of the kinsman-redeemer would necessitate that their children, not his other children, would inherit Elimelech’s property. 

 

That would complicate his inheritance. 

 

So he backed down. 

 

Then Boaz acted promptly and claimed the property and Ruth’s hand in marriage. 

 

Like all good love stories, it came to a happy ending.

 

But the rest of the story is this. 

 

In the course of time, Boaz’s and Ruth’s son Obed would have a son named Jessie, and Jessie would have a son named David, the great king of Judah from Bethlehem. 

 

With the passing of centuries, one of the descendants of Ruth, also born in the village of Bethlehem, was Jesus, who was none other than the Messiah.

 

Conclusion

 

The story of Ruth teaches us about the divine intervention of God in the lives of ordinary people. 

 

The next time you read Romans 8:28 remember the story of Ruth. 

 

And the next time you read the story of Ruth, remember Romans 8:28: “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” 

 

This verse does not assert that all things are good or that all things work together for good for all people.

 

Rather, the great promise is that God will overrule and work even through the tragedies caused by sin’s presence in the world, to accomplish His purposes in the lives of those who love Him and who have responded to His call.

 

Those who have responded to His call consist of the family of God.

 

Therefore, the promise of all things working together for good is given to a specific group, those who respond to Him in faith; that is, those who are in Christ Jesus and are justified by His blood.

 

The world in general does not have this promise.

 

God’s purpose is to make His children like His Son, and He will succeed.

 

How does He do it?

 

The Holy Spirit intercedes for us and guides us as we pray, and the circumstances of life work for our good, no matter how painful they may be.

 

T. J. Bach wrote: “The Holy Spirit longs to reveal to you the deeper things of God. He longs to love through you. He longs to work through you. Through the blessed Holy Spirit you may have: strength for every duty, wisdom for every problem, comfort in every sorrow, and joy in His overflowing service.”

 

God can bring good out of suffering, grief, disappointment, and loss. 

 

If you don’t believe that, just look at the cross!


Amen

Make a Free Website with Yola.