If you are new to Alpine Bible Church I want to say, “Welcome.” If you’ve been to Alpine Bible Church, you guys know this is my day because I am a Patriots’ fan through and through. I already heard Brady showed up early enough to deflate the balls so we’ve got this in the bag. I don’t care how we win as long as we win. Then tomorrow or next week I can eat crow if we lose. Don’t worry, rub it in my face, I don’t care. It’s fine.
I look forward to just this evening but before we get into that I think more important than just watching grown men chase a ball around on a field for millions of dollars, I think it’s important that we worship. We’re beginning a new series today in the Book of Ruth. This is a beautiful book to encourage us in our lives. It’s a beautiful love story of redemption, a book of second chances and what God can do in our lives and just leading into this, just to prep you a little bit I’m going to be a little harder on us as guys and ladies. This will still be relevant for your life as well. I’m not trying to do this to the exclude some of you. I’m only going to start with us as fellows, as men because that’s where the context of this book goes but I want you to know too, we’re not going to just live in the problem, we’re looking for a solution in Christ.
We’re going to start a little heavy as this book starts out in redemption, in this love story, a book of second chances and we’re going to look at a problem and it relates to the guys in their leadership. Any time you’re talking about redemption and second chances it’s because there was a problem. The good news is God is a God of grace and God is a God who fights for us as followers of Him. We can look at the honesty of this mess and the problem that exists in seeking resolution in Christ together.
We’re going to look at the first 18 verses of Ruth. Chapter one, it’s eight books into the old testament if you’re looking for it. Joshua, Judges and then Ruth that’s how it goes after six, seven and then Ruth is the eighth book. If you want to find that chapter 1, verse 1 to verse 18, is where we’re going to be today.
The story starts like this. I’m going to read it to us in chunks and then I’m going to just discuss with us what is being presented here because in the context especially first five verses they’re using language to get us to recognize the significance of this problem to then drive us toward redemption and a solution in the life of Ruth and Naomi.
The book starts like this chapter one, verse one, “Now, it came about it the days when the judges governed. That there was a famine in the land and a certain man of Bethlehem and Judah went to sojourn in the land of Moab with his wife and two sons.” The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife was Naomi and the name of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion, part of the Klingons. I’m just kidding. Ephrathites of Bethlehem that’s where they were in Judah. They entered the land of Moab and remained there.”
Verse three, “Then Elimelech, Naomi’s husband died and she was left with her two sons. They took for themselves Moabite women as wives. The name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other, Ruth. They lived there for about 10 years then both Mahlon and Chilion also died and the woman was bereft of her two children and her husband.”
The backdrop of this story begins with a problem. You see in verse one, it tells us in the context, the very first verse what the time period is here that’s taking place. It’s during the time of the judges. There’s a book in your Bible called the Book of Judges. It comes after Moses leaves the children of Israel out of slavery into the promised land. Joshua rules. After Joshua, there’s really not one predominant leader over Israel but the series of judges who rule over Israel and Israel would continue to turn away from God at this moment.
What it’s saying to us is it’s introducing the theology that’s driving the decisions of these people and their decision is that they don’t want to pursue God but rather they are God. In fact, if you flip back to Judges chapter 21, verse 25, the very last verse of Judges. It tells us that everyone did what was right in their own eyes. What it means is when they woke up every day, rather than saying God you’re the authority over thus, they’re declaring to God that they are the authority of life. They have this ad hoc approach to the theology that drives them. Meaning, when they wake up they make the decision of what will make me happy and whatever makes me most happy, that’s what I’m going to pursue. They’re in the period of judges. It’s not God that’s governing governing over them but it’s the people leading themselves. The Jewish people have removed from God and they’re determining their own fate by producing a life that honors them as lord rather than God as Lord.
It tells us during this time period there was a famine in the land. Now, this is I think a diving judgment of God on the people of Israel at this time. I’m not going to go out and say and I don’t think it’s healthy to say that every famine that ever exist is a judgment of God. What we can do is look at the particular people group at this place and recognize, God wanted to work through a particular people group in a particular location in their pursuit of Him. He says to them, “As they follow Him, He will bless them and when they don’t there will be diving judgment upon them.”
What’s happening in this is God’s disciplining them. God’s bringing a famine in the land. The interesting part about this famine is that they’re identifying one man in a particular location and that particular location is Bethlehem. The irony of Bethlehem is Bethlehem means the house of bread. The place God leads his people in a town called the house of bread, God’s people are experiencing a famine. God is restricting his provision and God then lets the story be told through a man named Elimelech and his name literally means God is my king. The irony behind this name while he’s living in Bethlehem, a place of God’s provision, the house of bread is that while Elimelech’s name may mean God as my king, Elimelech is not subjecting himself to God. Elimelech rather is seeing himself as god. He’s making decisions and rulings.
It’s like people today that call themselves Christian but give no indication by the fruit of their life that they truly belong to Jesus nor know Him. Elimelech in his life, he’s identifying this by the choices that he’s making that’s unfolding in this story. It tells us that Elimelech then decides with his family to move to a land called Moab.
Moab was a place about 30 to 50 miles from the area of Bethlehem. Moab was a place and a people group that God had told Israel to abstain from. In Deuteronomy, chapter 23, when Israel was passing through the land of Moab, the Moabites offered no provision to help Israel on that journey. God told the Israelites to stay away from them and God knew what the different people groups worshiping false gods around them that it would persuade the people to pursue false gods and so the Moabites were one such group. In fact, he told them in Deuteronomy, chapter 7 that if they would marry them that it would affect future generations in a negative light. With this decision, Elimelech though while God tells them to avoid the Moabites, Elimelech then makes the decision to move into this land. It tells us in verse 4, when he makes this decision to move into this land, that they’re there for 10 years.
The history of the Moabites began with this story of Lot. Lot had a sexual relationships with his own daughter and from that the Moabites were born. God tells them in the story to stay away from these individuals that are pursuing false gods but what we find in verse 4 is that Elimelech moves his family there and that they’re there for 10 years.
What is identifying for us is that they have no fellowship with God’s community. That in a sense they’re not in a church. They’re not with God’s church for over 10 years. While Elimelech has a concern for the provision of his family financially, he has no concern with his provision of his family spiritually. Elimelech is making this decision but he’s making this decision without considering the entire totality of the health of his family. All he thinks about is he’s a man whose job is to put food on the table.
Guys, I think it’s worth considering just for a moment, your responsibility. When God created you, He created you for a purpose. God gave you opportunity to have family and in fact when Paul considers the description of godly men in First Timothy 3, he says something about identifying godly men by the way they work within the context of their relationships most specifically in the context of family.
In First Timothy, chapter three, when Paul’s telling Timothy how to oversee the church he looks to Timothy and says, “Identify godly leadership and do it this way. He must be talking about an elder. He must be one who manages his own household well keeping his children under control with all dignity but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?” Deacons also in addition to elders must be husbands of only one wife, which means literally a one woman man. It means you as a man, a covenant before God and marriage make that covenant to keep your eyes fixed on your wife and no other. Husbands have only one wife and good managers of their children and their own household.
The theme and the context of these verses when Paul considers godly men demonstrating this in life, it deals with the management of the home. We talk about managing. I think it’s important to say this is not talking about a tyrant, an authoritarian, someone that’s just dominating and putting people in their place. A manager is one who oversees. Managers, good managers, recognize that when they manage they may not be gifted in every area of management but when it comes the idea of family, maybe there are certain gifts that your wife has that you don’t possess and so you lean into her giftedness as you oversee the health of your family not just monetarily but mentally, physically, spiritually.
How is the family? What Paul is really saying to us here guys is in the context of the church you may have elders, you may have someone in position of pastors, you may call me a pastor but when it comes to your home guys, the pastor of your home is you. You’re the shepherd, the overseer, the manager. You’re the one that God placed in a position to make a difference. In fact, when God first created family, Genesis 1:26-27, “He created man and woman in his image,” and in verse 28 this is what he says to one and woman, “God blessed them and God said to them be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it and rule over the fish in the sea and over the birds in the sky and over every living thing.” When God thought about how to bless the world, the first thing he didn’t discuss was church, the first thing he didn’t discuss was government. The first thing he discussed was family. A community, a nation, a church, it’s only as strong as the health of its family.
What he’s saying in Genesis 1:28, rather than complain about the condition of the country or the condition of whatever you’re surrounded in and whatever context that puts you in, consider the influence that you have and the giftedness of family. There’s no better place.
Sometimes you may feel like you’re with your family 24 hours a day, seven days a week but there’s no better place to have a godly influence, to make a difference in the world than with someone you have such close relationship with. It’s recognizing not only is it a responsibility but it’s also an opportunity to be fruitful and to recognize that God’s placed you in a position to oversee, to shepherd, to pasture, to manage, to make a difference.
The backdrop of Ruth as a story starts to be told to us, it’s helping us to identify the problem in hopes of discovering redemption that where God placed Elimelech to lead, where he led was his family into destruction. In fact, when you read the context of the story I’ll get to that in a minute but when you read the context of the story, Elimelech’s sons follow in his example. Meaning, if God wasn’t important to Elimelech, then his kids recognized why should He be important to us? In fact, his kids’ names, Elimelech chose to name his kids not even Hebrew names but Canaanites names and you know anything about Jewish lineage names have a lot to do with identity. Mahlon and Chilion literally mean sickness and death.
Guys, look I don’t think Elimelech’s, waking up, he’s like, “Man, how can I destroy my family today?” But, in his unintentional pursuit of not considering the management of his home, the demonstration is that his kids start to reflect what the dad is emulating in his life. Just as the Lord is unimportant to Elimelech, so it’s not important to his kids and his kids reflect sickness and death. Maybe the question for us is Dad, what do you model in the home or maybe parents, what do you model in the home? What are you helping your kids become a follower of? Elimelech’s monetary gain that’s the most important, but when the kids take a step back and they see how you prioritize your life, what would say is the most important for their life?
I can think for me just recently driving across the country, we decided to make that drive in pregnant wife and two kids, it was a genius idea on my part though we make that drive save a couple of thousand money. My family traveled to Great by the way. Wife’s bladder held strong and it was good. Making that journey, I remember towards the end of it one of my kids just piped up and said, “You know I can’t wait till I’m in control, Dad.” I look back, really? I could kill … No I’m just kidding, but, “I can’t wait till I’m in control Dad and I can do whatever I want.” I’m like, “Do you think that’s what it means to be a Dad?” He recognizes he’s under authority but what about me? I have a wife, I have kids I’m responsible to, but not just that. Sometimes, we have employers and ultimately I’m under God’s authority.
When you read the apostle Paul’s writing to parents and the children. One of the things he says to kids, Ephesians, chapter six he says to kids, “Kids, honor your father and mother.” If you’ve had kids and they’re at any age where they can all of a sudden start talking, you begin to recognize in their back statements, man, if you could just have a little more honor and respect. How important that would be for me to be able to speak into your life especially when you turn teenager? But, let me ask you, parents, how do you model the authority that you’re under in life? Knowing that ultimately you’re in God’s authority and because you’re under God’s authority that should affect the relationships that you have with everyone else in this world, how do your kids see you model the authority that you’re under with God as it relates to other human beings? When they cut you off in the road, what words do your kids hear you utter?
I think as a parent you look at your kid and you’re like, “Honor, respect, I’m going to get this in your heart, you rebellious child. Hell, how can you experience” … But, then the question really is for you. How do you model that for them? When it comes to Elimelech and the modeling of authority, what he said to his children what was most important to him was him. What’s produced within his life though I don’t think Elimelech’s pursuit was I want to figure out how to kill my family. I want them to be sick and dying. He made them pursuit to help them honor what was great in life and so what was produced was death. What are you helping your kids become followers of?
It’s heavy for a minute so let me just stop here for a second and just say I don’t say all this because men, women so that guilt becomes your motivator. I don’t think guilt is a good motivator at all. It’s not very lasting in your life, in anyone’s life but I think it is important to challenge us and just to look, and just ask the question, “What am I helping my kids pursue in life as what matters?”
Guilt is not a good motivator but here’s what is love. How much do you love the Lord and prioritizing everything else in your life, how much do you love the Lord? Is it demonstrated by the way you prioritize your life? I think it even happens when you love the Lord. It even transpires in the way that you talk to your children because look as parents sometimes when our kids don’t honor and respect us, the thing that we want to do is to immediately modify their behavior, to fall in line, we’ll become these tyrants over them. But you know what? God’s not just interested in modifying their behavior but what he’s interested in modifying that behavior, he’s interested in transforming their hearts. That’s the way Jesus treats you.
If you look at the story, you can see the beginning of Elimelech, “Ah, my wife kind of in some ways my life models Elimelech. I don’t want to demonstrate this sickness and death. How do I get out of this hole?” I think it’s important the way that you view God. I want you to know when God that it comes with this passage with us, in our hearts about worship, God’s not about you against him and you walking with guilt in that. God is for you and God wants to transform your heart. God wants to welcome you in relationship to him because God loves you.
When Jesus made the statement in Matthew 28, “All authority in heaven and earth is given to me.” I think it’s important to recognize that when Jesus talks about his authority, he’s leveraging that authority in your favor, not against you. When you look at this story, it’s not trying to make guilt be your motivator but just look in your heart and say, “Okay, what’s happened here?” Then answering the question, “Hey, God how can I start to model my love for you in a way that’s just authentic before my family? How God can you be that authority? How can I prioritize my life so my family doesn’t see sickness and death being emitted from me and start to emulate that but rather how do they see the life of who you are and my love for you coming out of my life?”
I didn’t want to be a hypocrite in this and so I brought my kids in after reading this first five verses. I just said, “Hey,” I was in my office and I said, “Hey, this is what your father’s going to share with people what do you feel like dad has used to help you guys pursue the Lord?” My kids, they told me to tell you this so if you want to know, if you like a parent you’re like okay, I’m at a stage where I got young kids. I got a four year old, a seven year old and a baby on the way. What is it a pastor uses to help influence his kids? Let me just throw a few things out for you.
The Jesus Storybook Bible, is a great Bible to read to your kids. It tells stories of the Bible but shows how all the stories tie to Jesus, which is just like Ruth. Ruth is a picture of Jesus. In fact, Ruth became the great-grandmother of David who is of the lineage of Jesus. We’re going to see redemption in Ruth in this story. It’s also an ultimate example of what Jesus would do for us. Story Book Bible goes to big stories, the Bible ties it to Jesus. If you’re reading the Bible for the first time, I would tell you this is a great thing to pick up even for your own personal sake. You can read one of these stories to your kid at night. Find out if your kids have a bedtime, and all of a sudden they discover if we can get mom or dad to read us a bedtime story and that allows us to stay up five minutes later past our curfew, they’re all excited to read the Bible together.
We also read Radical Book, which does a lot of things. It talks about theology. It talks about how to study the Bible. It talks about church history. A lot of cool things in there, I think it fits kids from about maybe four years old to possibly 10 or 11 years old. The Radical Book, I think everyone can find something in it but it seems to fit better in that age frame. When my kids said, “Dad, you got to tell them about the Radical book and you got to tell them about but knots.” The picture of right beside there is Athanasius of which my kids in my house call him but knots because that’s one of the stories you find out about church history, Athanasius but knots in there. They laughed and now you know that I told you about but knots.
The last is New City Catechism. This is actually an app that you can put on your phone. Catechisms, it asks a question, gives an answer. This Catechism is by Tim Keller. It also has a song related to the answer, to the theological question. It gives a Bible verse related to the answer of the theological question and it gives commentary. The cool thing is with the New City Catechism, you can turn it on kid mode or adult mode. If you want to just use it for your own personal study you can do that but it’s helpful for kids as well. My kids have really appreciated the New City Catechism.
There’s just a couple of things for you. If you’re just figuring out how can you lead your family just thinking about pushing and encourage them towards pursuing God in a relationship with him. These are just some ways with some kids, I tell you if you have kids that are older, middle school, high school age, parents I’d tell you books on missionaries challenging them as a parent just to read a book in the Bible. This summer, each month pick a book of the Bible and read it with them and talk to them about it. See what you discover. Pick the Book of Ruth after you go through after you go through you’ll be an expert here in the next four weeks and you have your Dads put your daughter read Ruth. Let her see that example, that redeeming love. Just talk about it together.
As your kids, I think as they get older kids should just reading some of the great works. I think for me a CS Lewis, no, CS Lewis didn’t make a difference in my life but AW Tozer or Jim Elliot, the story of a missionary to the Auca Indians in South America. That makes an impact on the life of a child as they get older, you can challenge them in those ways. But, here’s the point, avoid sickness and death. Elimelech pursued I think unintentionally he knows he’s making decisions contrary to what the Lord commands but I don’t think he’s waking up figuring out how he can destroy his family. It’s just the outflow of not pursuing God in his family.
At the same time, dads let me encourage you this way. If you got young daughters, or moms you got girls, don’t let your kids marry sickness and death. If you look at this story I think as much as it’s encouraging men to be there for your families or even moms how to encourage your families I think on the flip side, too at some point someone allowed these girls in the story to marry sickness and death. Dads, you are the gate to your home.
What I mean is when a young boy comes around you be like, “You want to date my daughter? Well you got to date me first. You want to buy her a flower? You buy me flowers. You buying her chocolate? You buy me chocolate.” You want to find out what this young man is all about.
In fact the apostle Paul says it like this when it comes to marriage First Corinthians 7:39. He says, “A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives but if her husband dies she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes,” but then he says this caveat, “She’s only to marry in the Lord.” Meaning what Paul is saying is the two most important decisions you make in your life are this who is your God and who will you marry? The two most important decisions you make in your life who is your God and who will you marry? Who your God is will determine your identity in the pursuit you have in life and who you marry should be something that you should be able to share the most sacred identity about you. Which is why Paul is saying, “Only in the Lord.”
The argument could be made for … I heard a pastor say this anyway for these two men that moved to Moab, but dad, the Moabite women are hot and the answer is, “Well so is hell son. It just doesn’t necessitate that, that’s right.” I’ve heard people say it like this and don’t amen this but it’s better to be single and free than it is to be married and miserable. Don’t amen, I get that.
Saying you’re Christian and a young man comes in and wants the hand of your daughter saying he’s a Christian. Who cares? That’s the popular statement in society. I’m a Christian, too. Does he really follow Jesus? Maybe our older adults here a little wisdom in life, having some experiences coming your way only just ask you when you think back to your twenties if you can remember this. Maybe some of you were married in your early twenties. “How much did you really know about what love would entail in that relationship or caring for a family or managing a house or taking care of finances? How many of you had it all figure out?”
I’m actually, I’m no wiser than when I first began this journey. I mean none of us. Your life experiences come your way like, “Huh, didn’t know that one. Glad I learned that. Kind of made a mistake here but I’ve learned from this decision as well. Glad God protected me from that decision because had I gone the other way it would have been worse.” We gain wisdom in life and so when it comes to handing your young one off to another one. How is that going to go for them? You know what it was like for you before you got married or before you started walking life as an adult. Do you really think they have it all figured out? How can you act as confident? Can I tell you? You ask that young man, “What’s your authority? What do you really bow down to? Is it Judges 21:25, “Doing whatever’s right in your own eye?” What do you choose to respect with your life?”
I can tell you that when it comes to that young man, he may not have it all figured out but if he surrenders his life to the Lord, his pursuit should be to honor his bride. He may not always do it perfect, but his pursuit before his God is to honor that woman as a gift. That’s what Paul is saying, “When you marry, marry in the Lord.” The greatest decisions you make in your life, who is your God and who will you marry?
God in this story then as you look at this problem, I just think it’s worth just saying to us that it is sobering to consider the power of who you marry in life can affect multiple generations. Marriage isn’t just about you and just feeling loved. It’s not. God gave us the freedom, the context of marriage that can determine or set a path for generations beyond you. The idea of marriage I think is one to just be considered not so lightly and not so selfishly.
When it comes to these young men, Mahlon and Chilion, they marry in a place where they know God told them not to and all they had to do was take the longer road, a two to three days journey back to Bethlehem. Sometimes, it’s better for us than just taking whoever’s in front of us to take the harder road, to honor God in the way that he desires to affect generations beyond us. It’s not about just a good time. It’s about a legacy. Maybe when it comes to deciding how we move as a family. A $10,000 raise in the front-end may be great but on the backend it could seriously cost you. You look at Elimelech. I move for a pay raise, separate my family from any health as human beings.
The effect of all this verse six it tells us the effects, “Then Ruth or excuse me Naomi. Then Naomi arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the land of Moab for she had heard in the land of Moab that the Lord had visited his people in giving them food.” She departed from a place where she was and her two daughters-in-law with her then they went on their way to return to the land of Judah.” I’m a skip on just a little bit to verse 11. It says, “But, Naomi said, “Return my daughters. Why should you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may be your husbands? Return my daughters, go, for I am too old to have a husband. If I said I have hope, if I should even have a husband tonight and also bear sons. Would you therefore wait until they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No my daughters. For it’s harder for me than for you. For the hand of the Lord has gone forth against me.””
What’s Naomi saying here? Essentially, what she’s saying is stick a fork in me. I’m done. The effects of what’s been built around me has not been healthy. You got to think in Naomi’s culture, family and land are everything. It’s an agricultural society dependent on the family to help provide as they work together in community. In this case, Naomi has neither. The story goes for us that in Naomi’s life she’s too old to get married. It tells us in this context and she no longer has any children to help care for her in her older age. During Naomi’s life you didn’t marry for sex, your posterity ran the business and they cared for one another. When it comes to family, she’s empty and in order to get to Moab, they sell their land. Now Israel has some laws in place where at least every 50 years your land could be restored to you but Naomi in going back she has no hope of having this land at least for the foreseeable future. Even if she did have the land, she’s too old to work the fields and because she doesn’t have the land she can’t even rent it out to someone else at least receive a little bit of income.
What it’s saying about Naomi if she is economically and spiritually without hope. She had no family, no land, no name and no significance. In going back to Bethlehem, she could even starve. Elimelech didn’t intentionally seek I don’t to pursue this but rather his pursuit was just focused on his desires. Maybe just to say in some of the greatest pain I think we experience in life is because family in not choosing to walk with the Lord. It’s the question is what needs to happen to help my family walk with Jesus?
I remind you we get to a place like this and it’s not to guilt us. It’s not to shame us but it’s to challenge us because in the context of the stories, it’s now presented the problem. It’s then going to talk about the solution. The story with Ruth starts to unfold here now as Naomi has told Ruth to return to her family. Ruth then makes a decision that will greatly impact both her and Naomi.
It tells us in verse 15. “Naomi says this, then she said, “Behold, your sister-in-law Orpah has gone back to her people and her gods. Return after your sister-in-law.”” Naomi here is doing the reverse of evangelism. She’s like, “Okay, I’ve come to this land with my God and I’m now telling you to pursue other gods.” This is not good advice Naomi is giving in her hardship but then it goes on in verse 16, “But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or return back 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. Where you die, I will die and there I’ll be buried. Thus, may the Lord do to me in worse if anything but death parts you and me.” When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.”
This is certainly an act of God’s grace intervening in their lives here but let me just encourage you while we look for redemption, while we look for hope, statistically I don’t really want to argue with this. I don’t want to undermine anyone’s influence in the home but statistically in the home if dad follows after the Lord, the family as a whole is more likely to follow after the Lord. Now, mom that doesn’t mean your influence isn’t important, your influence is important. But dad, for whatever reason statistically, when you pursue Jesus before your family, your family is more apt to pursue Jesus as a family.
Here in the story, it’s telling us there’s always a place of redemption. We can look back at your past. We can all look back in our past and say, “Yes, we have regrets. We have regrets, but as long as you pursue the Lord there’s always hope. There’s grace. There’s redemption.” God covers your past so that you can live in your future with Him. Just because you’ve made mistakes doesn’t mean you need to repeat them. You can make a decision to follow Jesus today.
In this story, you see Ruth pursuing that past though the life before her has brought death. Here’s the incredible story, Ruth refuses to leave and instead chooses to become an immigrant. Now let me ask why do people become immigrants? Usually, when you talk about immigrating it’s not easy. People are going to a new land, often learning a new language, a new culture and many times they lack monetary strength. The reason people tend to immigrate is because there’s a hope of better life but when Ruth chooses to immigrate, she’s actually immigrating with the anticipation not of a better life but of a worse life.
You think about who Ruth is she’s a Moabite. You think about how Israel would receive this. At best when a Moabite travels into a land where the people have been told to abstain from them, she’s going to be treated poorly and treated beneath everyone. You’re going to see later in the story, she could have been raped. She’s definitely going to be hated and maybe even killed. She’s leaving with a lady, Naomi, that has nothing and can contribute nothing to the needs of the family. Yet, Ruth says this incredible statement, “May the Lord deal with me even death if I were to leave you.” In this story of her immigrating she forsakes comfort for a greater reward because she’s leaving safety in her own land where her faith will die to grab ahold of risk so that her faith will grow.
If they both go to Israel, Naomi may live. If Naomi is going to have any kind of life, Ruth has to risk throwing hers away and so Ruth impoverishes herself so that Naomi can be rich. She leaves the worldly luxuries at the plan of God in redemption but for Ruth immigrating was not about a better life as far as physically in this world but rather a godly life. We ask the question, “Why would Ruth do this?”
I think two-fold. One, if she didn’t she knew likely Naomi would die but with Ruth there was a second chance. Two, Ruth loves the Lord. She knew going to the land where God has called his people. There was hope. In fact, the reason we know this look at verse 17. “Where you die, I will die and there I’ll be buried. Thus, may the Lord do to me and worse if anything but death parts me from you.”
When Ruth refers to her faith, she doesn’t talk about Naomi’s god. She refers to the Lord. The word Lord here is in all caps. The word that Ruth chooses to use is the most sacred name of God that Jewish people could utter. This wasn’t something they said flippantly. This is something they said in faith. Ruth came to know the Lord how in the midst of sickness and death, in some way Naomi modeled it for her. Naomi models this relationship with God and in turn Ruth provides life to Naomi. Here’s the irony of the story. Elimelech and his family left Moab expecting everything the world had to offer apart from God and they ended up with nothing. Yet, they came back to Bethlehem with nothing in this world and in the Lord they had everything they needed.
Where are you leading your family? Not to guilt you but to help us in a challenge to consider with sobering thought to make a cognitive decision in the pursuits of our life. Not this just wake up and do whatever it is I feel like is best for the moment but to understand I’m under authority and God is a God of grace.
Let me just give you a few things that we learned now that this story in close. Number one, men when it comes to leading, it’s not just about putting food on the table, but to understand God calls you to be pastor in your home, not to dominate, but to manage, to consider the scope of what your home is emotionally, mentally, physically and especially spiritually. Dads, don’t let your daughters marry sickness and death. Guard the gate, point them to the Lord. Help them to recognize if they truly want to find love, if they truly want to be honored in life find a young man that’s willing to confess with his lip that he desires to honor God because in honoring the Lord, he will honor her if his heart belongs to him.
Two, in the midst of our failures God’s grace shines. Just because we failed doesn’t mean God’s finished with you. That’s the point of the cross. It’s all about redemption. Jesus doesn’t fight against you. Jesus fights for you. God uses his authority in your favor in honoring family and sometimes if it’s new to us, it may feel unnatural.
I’m not telling you go home and just lead 57 devotions every day for your family. That will drive everybody crazy. What I’m saying is just be a light to contain and point your family to the Lord. Gather around dinner and pray. You can say to your kids, “Kids, this is weird. Never done this. Come pray. Just want to turn a new leaf in directing you guys.” Maybe your kids are out of the home, maybe you don’t have quite the influence, maybe you’re not the one in managing them anymore, maybe your sort of that sage of wisdom that you can impart advise every once in a while. You can’t be that strong influence that you were when they were under the roof. Maybe you say to them, “You know in your younger years, I do have a little bit of regret but this is where I’m at now. God’s done this in my life and that’s important to me and because of that I love you more and I want to just be a godly encouragement to your life where I can.”
Three, I want to say this we learn the spiritual power of relationships. Just because your home may not be perfect that maybe in some ways you see some Elimelechs being modeled. Naomi still had an influence on Ruth and Ruth had an influence on Naomi and so in the midst of that, don’t underestimate the power that you have in the relationships that you possess and the way that you can influence it for the Lord. Your home may not be perfect but no one’s is. Can I tell you? Nagging won’t make it better. Prayer can but nagging won’t. Just be a consistent light.
Number four, be willing to be an immigrant for Jesus. Now, I’m not saying you literally have to immigrate somewhere maybe, maybe someone should go somewhere for Jesus in a different place but I think in your heart, in all of our hearts, it’s important to recognize God wants us to realize this world is not our home. Does your life demonstrate it? Does it model where your heart truly belongs with him in relationship? Are you willing to not maybe pursue the raise for the benefit of your family? Are you willing just to consider the totality of what it means to pastor, to shepherd and to oversee the well being of your home to even give up things for the benefit of your family and to experience the grace of God in relationship?
I think the Book of Ruth starts with irony for us to see how our hearts tend to pursue the things of this world and to prioritize it but in the end just to simply ask the question for what? For what? Yeah, your bank account might get bigger but in the end it could really cost you sickness and death. You have an opportunity instead to really make a difference in this world. I don’t want you to just turn on the news and complain about the way things are. God calls you to be a light, to storm down the gates of hell, to make a difference by the way you influence. Where does that start? Not in your blogs but in your relationships. Who can you influence the most? The relationships that are closest to you. Just because you have past regrets doesn’t have to stop you from living for Jesus today. You just got to determine in your heart that’s what you’re going to do. Doesn’t have to be drastic but just let those around you know Christ is Lord and you want to help them to become all that God has called them to be.