Monday, May 10, 2010

"Ruth: an amazing woman. A more amazing God." - sermon notes for 9/05/10

(You can hear the sermon audio here)

Providence: God at work:

God never needs a back-up plan. He's never taken by surprise:
  • Deism = separates God/creation (not involved)
  • Pantheism = mixes the 2 together and confuses where God begins/ends (so how is He involved?)
  • Fate = elusive/ fairytale/ personifies “destiny”
  • Chance (the god of evolution!) = “everything's an accident” (I'M NOT! NEITHER ARE YOU!)
Our God is the Creator Who still cares and is involved and has no back-up plan. When it looks like a lost cause He's not hastily coming up with another idea. He cares/ sustains/ provides.
At all levels: general (sustains everything; upholds, Heb 1.3); within that (makes grass to grow Ps 104.14, provides food for animals in season Ps 104.27, sends the rain Matt 5.45, puts gvt's in place Rom 13.1, gives life in the womb Ps 127.3); then even more specifically: Rom 8.28. (Now see Ruth 2.3: “happened to come...”)

Did God CAUSE the famine? Yes. Look at Ps 105.16-17 about His providence in Joseph's story. And here, God used a FAMINE to draw Ruth into His Son's bloodline. Why? Will look at that later...

Ruth: an amazing woman:

While still young, she had to deal with infertility PLUS widowhood within 10 years of marriage (v4)...

Ruth's character is exemplary – she is:

  • Faithful - 1.6-22 (particularly 15-18). She CLUNG to Naomi (v14) – same verb used in Gen 2.24 (ESV - “hold fast”; NIV - “be united”) = binding, exclusive. It declares that future abandonment WILL NOT HAPPEN. See also Dt 10.20 - “Fear the LORD your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name.” Ruth, the Moabitess, ex-idolater (1.15 “and to her gods”), is demonstrating the very devotion God asks of His own people. She means this for life (v17). She's determined that the bitter blows she's been dealt will not defeat her. She saw the hope that God can bring – witnessed in the lives of her husband's family. Thus Ruth refused to allow bitterness seep into her heart.
  • Takes initiative (2.2) – isn't just some door mat who does what she's told.
  • Respectful (2.10 and 13 (“bowing”, “my lord”)
  • Humble (2.7, 10 and 13 again) - doesn't lean on her rights as a sojourner (Lev 19.9-10) but on Boaz's favour. Today, our whole culture is rights over responsibility! Ruth ends up in a BETTER place as a result of her humility (2.15)! And then better than THAT (2.16)!
  • Her reputation precedes her (2.11)
  • Hard-working (2.17)
  • Patient (2.23) – some time before the next step!
  • Sticks by her word (2.27b: “lived with her mother-in-law”)
  • Teachable (takes Naomi's advice to the letter: 3.1-5). Were do you get advice from? From those who say what you need to hear? Or those who say what you want to hear?
  • Kind (3.10) = hesed = same word used to describe God's covenanted love-faithfulness to His people. Boaz uses it in describing how she has looked after her mum-in-law, and now come to him as a preferable future, rather than a younger, eligible man.
  • Self-controlled – lying at Boaz's feet may not have been the most appropriate of ideas! Very risky. Alone! At night! (3.13-14 = all night, rising just before dawn!). However, her (and Boaz's) self-control is quite phenomenal (not a recommended option for unmarried couples, by the way...)
 … It was all enough to make quite an impact on Boaz. His 1st impression of her was outstanding. Her character sang out. Proverbs 31: the ABC's of womanly excellence: can be depressing unless properly understood = an ideal, covers all aspects. Then we see Ruth... And her CHARACTER wooed him. (something for men to learn from too!). What would be people's most likely 1st impression of you?

Is she too perfect? An unattainable role model? NO. Why? Because she's human and she's real. So what's her secret? Because she vowed to “hold fast” to Naomi and to God. She took that vow seriously. A challenge for us all.

A more amazing God!:

Moab = modern-day Jordan. Moabites - descendants of Lot AND HIS DAUGHTER - worshipped Chemosh (incl human sacrifice). Moabites were not specifically forbidden in marriage, Dt 7.3, BUT not allowed into worshipping congregation, Dt 23.3

She was called “Ruth the Moabite” right up to her marriage: twice in ch1, three times in ch2, and twice in ch4. Emphasises that God's kindness extends BEYOND Israel - now see 4.10 = acquired as Boaz's WIFE, to maintain MAHLON's name thru property/deeds. Ruth also calls her daughter in 3.1. Israel have a position not of privilege but of mission - it was always God's intention to save the nations not a singular nation. So, here we see Ruth welcomed into HIS people as ONE OF HIS OWN. Why? Partly for this reason: so foreign blood flowed in Christ's veins!!!!!!!!

She was a foreigner and an idolatress (1.15) and yet God drew her into his Son's bloodline (Matt 1 = five women incl Mary, two of whom, Rahab and Ruth, were non-Jews) = means that Christ not only came FOR the nations but FROM the nations too!!!!

And so to the great romantic climax: the lovers marry, are prophesied over (An audacious prophecy! Telling a young woman who's had to deal with infertility that she'll have a child!), and she does indeed have a child. Obed is the grandfather of King David, the forefather of Jesus Christ.

Which brings us to this:

The overall EARTHLY goal of Ruth's story/Naomi's intentions = to find Ruth a home (1.9, 3.1)... The overall HEAVENLY goal of Ruth's story: to bring humanity home to the Father through His Son.

This story is about life from death: God the Father, in His Providence, brought life out of famine, out of infertility, out of death. Christ, the most marked result of this story, has done the same for us in His death and resurrection. What happened to Ruth has happened to us: Eph 2.11-13. We've been rescued from dead beliefs, from dead works, from death itself, into LIFE itself, by Christ Himself! Just like Ruth, we have been redeemed – rescued, delivered, saved.

The main point? That no matter how exemplary you are – even as much a man or woman of integrity as Ruth – we are still only saved by His grace. Ruth's high standards and faithfulness did not make up for her past, did not crowbar her into God's kingdom. God's providence did that. Her grandstanding speech, as much as it is a remarkable open commitment to Naomi, pointed the way to HIM – this is a prayer of commitment to the One Who is behind it all. HE drew her in. HE called her. HE saved her. And He is calling you too.

Nothing you say or do will change your past. Only He can do that. Not chance, not fate, Not an amoebic pantheistic god, not an absent or dead god. Only the True God, the God of providence. Seek Him first.

Cell Q's:

  1. Look again at Psalm 105.16-17 about God's involvement in natural disasters.
    • Is this difficult for you?
    • How do we find comfort in this?
    • What would the world say?
    • What should be our answer?
  2. Ruth was teachable and humble.
    • Where do you get your advice/counsel from?
    • How can we encourage more accountability, counsel amongst our Beacon family?

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