Ruth 1-2 - Skip Heitzig
Calvary church is dedicated to doctrine, and we want you to experience the life change that comes from knowing God's Word and applying it to your life. So we explain the Bible verse by verse-- every chapter, every book. This is Expound.
Turn, in your Bibles, please, to the Book of Ruth in the Old Testament-- the Book of Ruth. There are only two books in the Bible that are named after women. And they're both in the Old Testament. The other one is the Book of Esther and this Book of Ruth. The name Ruth means friendship, or companion, or, perhaps, even more accurately, compassionate friendship.
So she is well-named because she becomes somebody who is devoted to her mother-in-law. She is devoted to God's purposes. And she turns out to be a very compassionate, sweet, godly, young woman even though she faces great hardship. So one of two books named after women-- Book of Esther and then this one, the Book of Ruth. It is the only book in scripture that is named after an ancestor of the Lord Jesus Christ. She does show up in the genealogical record. A lot of names show up. But this book named after her finds it's the only book in the Bible named after an ancestor of the Lord Jesus.
Also, it is the only book in the Old Testament that is named after a non-Jewish person. Ruth was not Jewish. She was Gentile. She comes from the other side of the river-- other side of the Dead Sea, the land of the Moabites. So she is the only book named after a non-Jewish person in the Old Testament. Now there is one that is named after a non-Jewish person in the New Testament. Anybody know that?
Book of Luke.
Book of Luke-- we think. Some believe that he was a Hellenistic Jew. But probably, he was a Gentile. That's the current idea. But this is the only one in the Old Testament named after a non-Jewish person. There are some great themes in this little Book of Ruth. The theme of Providence is probably the biggest one, where God takes natural events and weaves them together for a supernatural outcome.
And how I love the providence of God. I-- it is, perhaps, my favorite-- one of my favorite attributes of God, one of my favorite ways that He works. He works so providentially. Some believers want miracles-- claim your miracle. Look for your miracle. I like providence even better than the miraculous. I love the fact that God causes all things to work together for good to those that love Him. That, in and of itself, is miraculous. But I love that. And providence undergirds this book. That is one of the themes of the Book of Ruth.
It is also a book of conversion. We have a Gentile girl who becomes a convert to the God of the Covenant of Israel. Your people will be my people, she will say, your God will be my God. So it's a story of providence. It's a story of conversion. It's a story of redemption. Really, it's about how two people fall in love and one who owns the field, Boaz, redeems the land that has been lost by Abimelech and buys the bride, buys Ruth, gets Ruth-- not buys Ruth but gets the right to marry Ruth.
And so there is a great theme of redemption. It was Augustine who first said, concerning the Bible-- how the Old and New Testament work together-- he said, the New is in the Old, contained. The Old is in the New, explained. That is, the New Testament is hinted at in the Old Testament. It's contained in there. There are shadows, and types, and prophecies. So the New Testament is anticipated by the Old. So the New is in the Old, contained. The Old is in the New, explained.
Once you get to the New Testament, you have an explanation of the Old Testament. When you read the New Testament, all that Old Testament stuff makes sense. You put Jesus in the middle of it, He unlocks the key to so much of that prophecy. And it's all explained.
But you have, in the Book of Ruth, an incredible foreshadowing of Jesus, of redemption because, essentially, you have a man from Bethlehem who redeems a Gentile bride and brings a Gentile bride to himself. If that's not a picture of Jesus in the church, I don't know what is. So it's an amazing picture of that providence, as well as conversion, as well as redemption.
The book opens up with a choice-- actually, several choices-- one choice that leads to another choice that leads to another choice that leads to another choice. And one thing all of us eventually come to grips with is how precious and how precarious our choices can be. One little dynamic, one little choice can be a hinge of so much.
So in chapter 1, Abimelech makes a choice to leave the covenant land and go to Moab. Naomi makes a choice to stay in the land after her husband dies. Her two sons make a choice to marry non-Covenant, non-Jewish women-- Moabitesses. And then Naomi makes the decision to go back to the land of Bethlehem once the famine has gone away. And Ruth makes the choice to go with her.
So in verse 1, "It came to pass in the days when the Judges ruled that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab-- he, and his wife, and his two sons."
We read this verse last week at the end of our study in the book of Judges to show you that just like the last few chapters of the book of Judges anecdotally show you how bad it was in Israel during that time, Ruth set also during the time of Judges shows you that though it was really, really bad, God was doing something really good.
And God often works that way. Sometimes, God is working when you don't see Him. You don't think He's working. It looks so bleak. It looks so horrible. God is at work. And God has a really good plan, though most of the people in the land cannot see it and don't know about it. But God is at work.
Now it says, "It came to pass in the days when the Judges ruled." So we know this took place during a time of rebellion. The book of Judges was one of the darkest stains in Israel's ancient history. And we spent weeks looking at that. And we're glad we did. And we're glad we're done with it.
It was also a time of anarchy. Every man did what was right in his own eyes, the book says. There was no king in Israel. Everyone did what he wanted to do. So people were breaking off restraints. They don't want to obey God. They don't want to obey God's laws. They don't care about civil authority because there really is no central civil authority.
There's no king in Israel. So people were making it up as they went along, doing whatever they pleased, whatever they did. And that's what's ironic. The more they did as they pleased, the less they were pleased with what they did. They became more in bondage the freer they got. We're free, we're free, they said. And they were in bondage to their own sin and to the peoples around them, as we saw during the sin cycle of the book of Judges.
There's an interesting passage in the book of 2 Chronicles. Let me just read it to you. And I say it's interesting because the author is giving a summary statement of that era, but he is also evidently pointing back to the time of the Judges and how the Judges reigned.
And so it says this, "For a long time, Israel has been without one true God, without a teaching priest, and without a law." And if you're taking notes, and you want to just look at it later, I'm reading out of 2 Chronicles, 15. "But when, in their trouble, they turned to the Lord God of Israel and sought Him, He was found by them. And in those days, there was no peace to the one who went out or the one who came in. But in great turmoil, it was on all the inhabitants of the land. So nation was destroyed by nation and city by city, for God troubled them with every adversity."
That's the time of the Judges. The author in 2 Chronicles is hearkening back to this time that we have been dealing with. Now I just read it to you in the translation that I read every week-- the New King James version. I want to read what I just read to you-- or at least, a couple of the verses-- out of a translation called The Message. The Message is a paraphrase written by Eugene Peterson, but it's very colorful. And I found it to be very contemporary.
So I wanted to read it to you-- same passage but out of The Message. "But when they were in trouble and got serious and decided to seek God, the God of Israel, God let Himself be found. At that time, it was a dog-eat-dog world. Life was constantly up for grabs. No one, regardless of country, knew what the next day might bring. Nation battered nation. City pummeled city. And God let loose every kind of trouble among them." That sums up the era of the book of Judges. So the first verse of Ruth lets us know during the bleakest time, God was doing one of the brightest things.
So it was the time when the Judges ruled. And it says this, that there was a famine in the land. Now this is noteworthy. Famine was pretty typical in the Middle East. There were so many reasons that you could have a famine. You could have a famine because of drought. You could have a famine because of locusts. You could have a famine because of hail. You could have a famine because of unrelenting winds. All of that could lessen the amount of rainfall or the productivity that rainfall brings.
But you could also get a famine when people attacked you, besieged you, and would take your crops, and burn your crops, or destroy your crops, or take the harvest for themselves. All of that could bring hardship and a famine to people. But all of those things, God promised, he would control.
So way back in the law, when God was giving them the land and setting up the nation, He said now-- Deuteronomy 28-- if you obey me, I'm going to bless you in the city. I'm going to bless you in the country. I'm going to bless you in the kneading trough. I'm going to bless you at the dinner table. I'm going to bless your crops. I'm going to bless this-- just a whole list of blessings. However, if you disobey me, you're going to be cursed. You'll be cursed in the city. You'll be first in the country. You'll be cursed where your crops are growing. You'll be cursed in the kitchen, the dinner table, the kneading trough-- everything.
But listen to this out of Deuteronomy 28, that chapter that I referred to, "And you shall become an astonishment, a proverb, a byword among all the nations where the Lord drives you. You shall carry much seed out to the field and gather but little in, for the locust shall consume it," he's speaking of famine. "And you shall plant vineyards and tend them, but you shall neither drink of the wine nor gather the grapes for the worms shall eat them. You shall have olive trees throughout all your territory, but you shall not anoint yourself with the oil for your olives shall drop off."
What God is telling them in this chapter, what God is promising them for their future is that the productivity of the land will be directly proportional to their obedience of God. That was the covenant he made with the Jewish nation. If you obey me, you're going to dig it. I'm going to so bless your crops, your families, your land. If you disobey me, you're going to live to regret it. And so productivity was directly proportional to their obedience to God. So it was during that time, a famine broke out in the land.
So it says this, "A certain man of Bethlehem Judah," now this is interesting because there's a famine in the land. And the city in question here is Bethlehem. Bethlehem is a Hebrew word that means the house of bread. It's the breadbasket of the land. It's the place where the crops in Judah grew. So they're in bread land. In the house of bread, Bethlehem, there was a famine. In the breadbasket-- even there-- there was a famine in the land.
"A certain man of Bethlehem Judah went to sojourn," or he went to take a trip, a journey, 'in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech. The name of his wife was Naomi," means pleasant. "The names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites." Now Ephrathites-- Ephrath or Ephratha is a region where Bethlehem is located.
So if you remember the prophecy in Micah chapter 5, verse 2, "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to me the one who will be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting," a prophecy of Jesus' birth. Bethlehem Ephrathah-- that's the county seat, so to speak. Bethlehem was the city. So they were Ephrathites. They were from that region originally-- "of Bethlehem Judah, and they went to the country of Moab and remained there."
Now let's consider their names for just a moment. I find Bible names interesting-- sometimes weird, sometimes goofy, sometimes unfortunate. But I find them interesting. People would name their children, in those days, based on-- number one, their own personal conviction, their thoughts, their worldviews, their ideas of God, or with that, the conviction of the hope of what they wanted their child to become. So either based on personal conviction or upon conditions going on around them at the time of birth.
So if something happened when the baby was born, they might name that child that. So when Isaac and Rebecca got pregnant-- finally, Rebecca got pregnant. She was barren. She couldn't have children. He prayed, and she became pregnant. And she said, you know, sweetheart, this pregnancy is weird. It's hard. I'm having a tough time with it. And so they prayed about it. And the Lord told them, well, the reason she's having a tough time with it-- there's two nations in her womb. In other words, she's going to have twins. And two people well will be separated from her. The older will serve the younger.
So nine months go by. She has the live birth. The first child out of the womb is all red and hairy. So they named the child hairy [LAUGHTER] because that was the circumstance of the birth. That's what Esau means-- hairy. So Hairy is born first. They wipe Hairy off. But as soon as Hairy comes out of the womb, there's a hand of the second child reaching out grabbing a hold of the leg of the heel-- of Hairy's heel. And as that child was coming out, they said, oh, look-- he's grabbing the heel. So they called him heel catcher. Yaakov, Jacob means heel catcher-- one who trips his brother up or catches the heel.
So these were the names that these kids had to grow up and live with. That's why I say it can be a blessing. It can also be a little wonky and weird to have that name. When Benjamin was being born and Rachel gave birth to Benjamin in Bethlehem, she also died during that. She was waning in her health. And as the child was delivered, and they showed her the child and said, it's a boy, trying to encourage her to bring her spirits up. She looked down at the child and named the child Benoni.
Benoni means son of my sorrow. And then she kicked the bucket. She died. Well, her husband thought, my kid can't live with that name. That's going to be tough when he goes to school and he's called son of my sorrow. So he renamed the child Benjamin-- son of my right hand. So anyway, enough of that.
Elimelech is a great name. It means my God is King. So wherever he would go, he would say my name is my God is King. His name was his testimony. And yet, he didn't live up to his name because if your God is King, why aren't you trusting your God and staying in Bethlehem, instead of going outside of the promised land to the land of Moab?
But this guy who had the name, my God is King, didn't believe that his King, God, could take care of him in Bethlehem. So looking over from Bethlehem across the Dead Sea, he could see the highlands of Moab, 3,500 feet in elevation-- 16 inches of rainfall per year, porous soil. So he goes, we're moving, man. Let's go over there. And so he goes over there with his wife-- pleasant-- Naomi.
While they're there, they have a couple of kids. And the kids are mentioned here. They don't have good names. The name of his two sons were Mahlon, which means sickly, and the second child, Chilion, means pining or weeping, crying. So Sick-o and Cry-baby-- [LAUGHTER] not great names, right? I did mention that people named their kids based on the condition of the birth. This could simply be dad's reaction to seeing his kids being born.
For a new Father, for a young Father to see a live birth can be daunting. It's like, really? That looks like an alien. That's my child? I mean, look at that head. Put a Chiquita sticker on there. It's just so-- right? [LAUGHTER] It could just be it could have been his reaction-- ew, sick! And then the next one came out crying-- oh, cry-baby. Well, those were the names-- Sick-o and Cry-baby. [LAUGHTER]
Then verse 3, "Then Elimelech, Naomi's husband died," so he wasn't healthy, himself. "And she was left, and her two sons. Now they took wives of the women of Moab. The name of the one was Orpah," which means fawn, like the animal, "and the name of the other Ruth. And they dwelt there about ten years. Then both Mahlon and Chilion died."
So the woman survived her two sons and her husband. They thought it was going to be great. They made a choice. Let's go to Moab. They go to Moab seeking a livelihood and, in the process, lost their lives. They thought they were going to start some new wonderful life together. Instead, they found a grave.
Remember what Jesus said? He said, if you seek your life, you're going to lose your life. If you lose your life for my sake, you'll find your life. There's a lot of loss and a lot of pain compressed into these versus. This woman loses everything. She loses her husband. She loses her son. She loses the family name. She loses the inheritance. It's all gone. She is bereft of it all.
We're not told how the deaths occurred-- could it be a disease, some kind of a plague, some kind of a congenital thing-- we just aren't told. They probably started out. It was great. They had a they had a four-bedroom tent, a two-camel garage. They joined the local donkey lodge down the street. You know, they were integrated into the community. And then one night, Naomi gets a call from Moab general emergency room-- ma'am, your husband's dead. Identify the body.
She decides, however, to stay in Moab. Her two sons marry Moabitesses. Their names are given, and they play an integral part of the story. Verse 6, "She arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab, for she heard in the country of Moab that the Lord had visited His people in giving them bread." Now this is interesting. For five verses, God isn't mentioned. The Lord isn't mentioned. He's only mentioned in names, like Elimelech. But the Lord isn't mentioned. Now He is being mentioned.
It's as if there is a God consciousness that is returning to Naomi. She starts thinking about God. She hears that the famine has lifted. And the way it's couched here, the way it is written, it says, "the Lord visited his people." And the name Lord is the Covenant name that is used-- Yahweh, the God of the Jews, the God of the Covenant. Yahweh has visited his people in giving them bread. "Therefore, she went out from the place where she was and her two daughters in law with her, and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah."
So she hears about what happened. She attributes it to God. Notice down in verse 8, "Naomi said to her daughter in law--" we're going to get back to a couple of these things in the verses, but I want to draw your attention to this. She says, "Go, return each to her mother's house. The Lord--" there's that name again, Yahweh, the Covenant name-- "the Lord deal kindly with you as you have dealt with me." Verse 9, "The Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband."
Go down to verse 13, "Would you wait for them till they're full-grown? Would you restrain yourselves from having husbands? No, my daughters, for it grieves me very much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me." It's as if, for years, they have walked away from the Lord. At least, He's not mentioned in five verses that tell that story. And all of a sudden, she's very God-conscious now. Now there is a principle, I believe, in that. And that is, affliction can do that. Sorrow and pain can awaken a person's need for God like nothing else.
David said in Psalm 119-- I think it's around Verse 67. There's a lot of verses in that psalm. But in Psalm 119, David said, before I was afflicted, I went astray. But now, I keep your word. You see how that works? You know, you got my attention, God. The affliction got my attention. Before I was afflicted, I did whatever I wanted to. I went astray. But now, I keep your word. The affliction has woken me up to my need.
Martin Luther even said, were it not for trials an affliction, I wouldn't understand the scriptures. He attributed much of the depth of his understanding to the fact that he lived through such deep sorrow. And so like that, Naomi is talking about the Lord, the Lord, the Lord.
Now verse 7 is noteworthy, "Therefore, she went out from the place where she was, and her two daughters in law with her. They went on the way to return to the land of Judah." In that verse, you have a beautiful picture of repentance. She goes on the main road that she came in with. And now, she does an about face, and she turns around to go back to where she came from. That's really a beautiful picture of repentance. I mean, repentance means to turn around, to change direction, to do an about face, to go in the opposite direction, to do a 180.
They came into Moab. Now, she's turning her back on Moab and going back to where the Covenant God-- Yahweh-- has blessed His people in Bethlehem. And that's always the quickest way back to God. Oh, I feel so far from God. Well, just turn around. You'll find Him. Just repent. You'll find Him. Oh, but I've taken 100 steps away from God. Well, it's only one step back. You turn around and say, Lord, God, forgive me. You're there. You don't have to remake those steps. Just turn around. Quickest way back is just to simply turn around.
"And Naomi said to her daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother's house. The Lord deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the dead," that is, your husbands, "and with me. The Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband." So go back, get married again, get a new husband. "Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices, and they wept."
Now just freeze-frame this for a second because now we come to one of the decisive moments in all of history. Doesn't look like it-- just three women out on a dirt road, having a conversation. One decides to go back home. So? Certainly, there were better, more important things happening in the world at that time. And I suppose, if you were to freeze-frame that historically and look around at the world at that time, there would be some significant things happening.
For example, at this very moment, over in Greece, the golden age of Greece was starting to come to fruition-- at this moment in history. In China, at this very same time that these three gals are out on the road, the Zhao Dynasty is beginning to blossom, coming into existence. That's historically significant. Over in Central America and South America, at the very same time, the Mayan dynasty is starting to sprout. All of these are significant.
But I say to you that this is more monumental than all of those world happenings. Well, how is that? Because if this decisive moment doesn't play out right, you better tell the Magi not to come to Bethlehem. Because the Magic come to Bethlehem because Jesus is born in Bethlehem.
Jesus gets born in Bethlehem because David, his ancestor had been born in Bethlehem. David was born in Bethlehem because his dad, Jesse was born in Bethlehem. Jesse was born in Bethlehem because his dad, Obed was born in Bethlehem. And Obed was born in Bethlehem because Boaz and Ruth got married and had Obed. So this is a very decisive moment that is playing out on the road to somewhere in Moab.
All of that to say this-- there's a beautiful scripture in Zechariah chapter 4 that says, "We should not despise the days of small beginnings." Those choices that you make, one that leads to another that leads to another-- small though they may be or seem, can lead to great and monumental things.
"And they said to her, surely we will return with you to your people." Now they're out there having a little cry fest, and they're highly emotional. So they said, no, man, we're coming back with you. We'll just follow you. We love you so much. "But Naomi said, turn back, my daughters. Why will you go with me? Are there still sons in my womb that they may be your husbands? Turn back, my daughters. Go your way, for I'm too old to have a husband. If I should say, I have hope, even if I should have a husband tonight, and should also bear sons, would you wait for them till they were grown? Would you restrain yourselves from having husbands? No, my daughters, for it grieves me very much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me."
Now what is she referring to? She's referring to an ancient custom. We'll just touch on it and go on. We won't get into it. But there's a law we have already uncovered in the Old Testament called the law of the levirate marriage. The law of the levirate marriage is that if an Israel-- actually, this is in all the Semitic cultures in the ancient Middle East.
If somebody had a wife, and that husband died, and there's no one to perpetuate the family name, the brother of that dead guy who would be alive would do the courtesy of having a child through that man's wife to perpetuate the family name in Israel. That's what she is referring to. She goes look, you know, even if I could have kids, you're going to rob the cradle and, you know, wait 20 years until they grow up, and they can do that?
Now something just to make note of, twice she says-- when they said, we're coming with you, she goes, no, go back. No, go back. Why would she tell her daughter-in-law or both of them to go back? I mean, it'd be nice if you went with me to Bethlehem. But twice, she says, go back. She dissuades them from coming.
Here's what I think. I think, more than a courtesy, she is basically saying, if you're going to follow on this road with me, you're going to have to count the cost. First of all, being a widow is tough in any generation. Any widow who's here tonight would say Amen to that. It's hard. It's very difficult. Being a widow in ancient times was even worse. And being a widow in ancient Israel, especially if you were not an Israelite, but you were a foreign woman living among Israelites is a hard rap.
And Naomi knew the prejudice of her people toward a cursed society. The Moabites were cursed, to Israel. Moab was the result of incest. You remember the story Lot and Lot's daughters, and they got their dad drunk, and they went in lay with him, and they got pregnant from their father. And one of the children born was named Lot-- I mean, was named Moab. And the Moabite race came from an incestuous relationship. So the Jews never look kindly upon the Moabites.
Even God, in Psalm 108, says humorously-- he says, "Judah is my lawgiver. Moab is my washpot." Washpot is like a garbage can. So Elimelech and Naomi left the House of Bread to go eat out of a garbage can. Now, Naomi knows, if you, who come from what Israel will call God's garbage can, if you're going to come back to Bethlehem as a widow bearing the stigma of having a husband who was a Jew who disobeyed God's Covenant by marrying you, and you're going to live in this culture-- it's going to be hard. So go back home. Go back to your mama. Go back, and hang out with your people.
Well, verse 14, "They lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law." It was a goodbye kiss. She walks off the pages of history. She's never mentioned again. She goes back home. She goes you know what? She's right. Bye. And you never hear from her. But it says this, "Ruth clung to her," she was more determined.
And she said, "Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. Return after your sister-in-law. But Ruth said, intreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following you, for wherever you go, I will go. Wherever you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, your God, my God. And where you die, I will die. And there I will be buried. The Lord do so to me-- Yahweh do so to me and more, if anything but death parts you and me. And when she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her."
Now we have just read one of the most beautiful poetic sections in all of literature. Rhetoricians and poets have a hard time coming up with something that comes close to being this beautiful. It's so beautiful, I used it on my wedding invitation. Where you go, I will go. Your God will be my God. Your people will be my people until death do us part. Even though that has nothing to do with a wedding, it's a commitment between a daughter and on a mother-in-law, I just thought it was appropriate for the covenant we were going into. It's a beautiful beautiful poetic statement.
Here, Ruth makes a commitment-- a sincere commitment. She says, intreat me not to go back. Don't pastor me to go back. I'm going with you. So it was a sincere, heartfelt commitment. It's similar to what Elisha will say to Elijah when he says, look, as the Lord lives and as you live, I'm not going to leave you-- same kind of commitment, a sincere commitment. Not only is it a sincere commitment, it's a spiritual commitment, Where he says, "Where you go, I will go. Where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people will be my people. Your God will be my God." I am willing to disassociate myself with all of the gods of my people.
By the way, do you know the chief god of the Moabites was a god by the name of Chemosh-- Chemosh, C-H-E-M-O-S-H. Chemosh was the chief deity worshipped in Moab, and he was worshipped by child sacrifice. It would be something the Jews would call testable, even though the Jews got down to that level a couple of times in their history. It was a testable practice. So this is a conversion. It's a spiritual commitment. "Your people will be my people. Your God will be my God."
And then notice how steadfast this commitment is, "where you die, I will die." In other words, hey, mom-in-law, I'm coming with you. And I'm not buying a round-trip ticket. It's a one-way ticket. I'm in it for life. I'm going to go all the way to death with you. "So when she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her." This is commitment. She tried to dissuade her daughter-in-law. Her daughter-in-law said, nope, nope, nope-- I'm coming.
There's a difference between involvement and commitment. If you think about it, next time you're at the breakfast table and you look down, if you have a glass of milk and you have bacon-- two things I rarely have on my breakfast table. But if you have milk and bacon, look at that as a comparison. Milk speaks of involvement. Right? The cow is involved, right? But that's about it. It's just-- he's there, and he's milked-- she's milked. And that's involvement. Now, bacon speaks of commitment, right? [LAUGHTER] That pig was in it till death, took it out of its hide. Sorry for that analogy, but you'll probably never forget it.
"Now the two of them went until they came to Bethlehem. And it happened when they had come to Bethlehem that all the city was excited because of them, and the women said, is this Naomi? So she said to them, do not call me Naomi. Call me Mara." Naomi means pleasant. Mara means bitter. Said, call me bitter, "for the Almighty is dealt very bitterly with me." She is blaming God for it. She is God-conscious, but she's still bitter toward God. She's making steps, and she's going to change. She's going to come around and see God's great plan. Her and her husband made the choice to go to Moab.
A lot of bad things happened. They're blaming God for all of it. And it comes to full brunt right here. "For the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?" "So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, with her, who returned from the country of Moab, now they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest." They want you to know that. The author wants you to know the timing is important. They're coming late April, beginning of May-- that time, right when the beginning of the barley harvest.
Now getting into chapter 2 is a romance. It's where boy meets girl. And they're going to be husband and wife. And let me just say to you-- to us-- who are married, never forget the moment you met. In fact, when things get a little dicey in your relationship. Get alone, and just remember the first time you laid eyes on her. And how you went, wow. And how she went, (SOFTER VOICE) wow. [LAUGHTER] And the heart fluttered. I still remember the night I met my wife. And I looked across the room, and I went, wow. So they're going to meet, and there's going to be wedding bells by the end of the chapter.
Now this couple is very-- if opposites attract, they're perfect for each other because they are so opposite. He's rich, she's poor. He's Jewish, she's not. She's a Gentile. She's a Moabitess. He's the owner of the field. She's the gleaner in the field. He's single. She's widowed. They're very, very opposite. But a romance-- they're going to overlook those things, and they're going to love each other. And somebody once said, the key to a good marriage relationship is to keep your eyes wide-open before marriage and half-shut after marriage. [LAUGHTER] You know what you're getting into. You look around. And then you just decide, OK, I knew that going in. I'm just going to just not notice those things right now.
"And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech. His name was Boaz. And so Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, please, let me go to the field and glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I may find favor. And she said, go, my daughter. And she left, and went, in gleaned in the field after the reapers. And she came to the part of the field belonging to Boaz who is of the family of Elimelech." Now the gleaning was an ancient means of God taking care of the poor. God is concerned for the poor.
And in antiquity, one of God's ways to take care of the poor wasn't a welfare system but a gleaning system. So you are commanded in Leviticus 23 that when you reap your fields, you go through your fields once. You don't go through them again. You leave some of the fruit on the vine, some of the fruit on the tree, some of the wheat in the stalk. You go through it once, and you leave. And they left up to, in most cases, 25% of the crop in the field.
And that was so the fatherless, the widow, the poor of the land, the stranger of the land could come in and take it-- could pick it. So it wasn't like, we'll collect it and give it to you, so there's no labor involved. No, you have to work for it. So there's dignity in the work, right? You're giving a man or a woman their dignity because they have to go in and get it. It's not just a handout. But if you're a rich landowner, you leave some of it, so they can come in and pick it later. So that's the gleaning of the field.
So she's out gleaning in the fields in Bethlehem. "Now behold, Boaz from Bethlehem said to the reapers," this is his workers now, "the Lord be with you. And they answered him, the Lord bless you." Can I just say, this is not a work crew I have ever come across in my own experience? [LAUGHTER] If you go to a construction site today or tomorrow and listen to the language at the construction site or a place where there's farming like this, you're probably not going to hear this conversation.
But immediately, we are struck with the personality of Boaz. There is a largesse about his personality. He seems to be very generous and big-hearted. And he's a spiritual man-- the Lord, the Lord, the Lord. He's going to take notice of that with her-- make note of that with her. I heard about your conversion to the Lord. He's a spiritual man. He's a godly man.
Girls, look for a godly husband. Look for a man who loves Jesus more than he will love you, who will honor Him and have a fidelity in spiritual things above all else. You say, well, that's important but not that important. What's really important, he has a good income and he's handsome. We may differ a little bit in our belief system in our world view-- OK. That's called missionary dating. And I've heard a lot of girls say, well, or guys say, yeah, you know, they're not really walking with the Lord, but I can influence them.
Missionary dating leads to a missionary marriage. You'll find yourself married to an unbeliever or a believer in name only-- a nominal believer-- and you have kids, and it's going to be very difficult to unravel that to agree on the future education of that child, the future spiritual upbringing of that child. So look for a spiritual man-- somebody who is like Jesus to you. That doesn't mean he has to have long hair, and a robe, and staff, and sandals-- but he is Christ-like. He is spiritual.
Paul said in 2 Corinthians 6, "don't be unequally yoked together with an unbeliever." Don't be mis-mated with an unbeliever. And so here is a godly man, a spiritual man. And something to make a notice of-- did you notice in verse 2-- I didn't even-- I just saw the word. But go back to verse 2. Here's, "Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, please, let me go to the field and glean heads of grain." Now that's hard work. Hey, mother-in-law, can I please go sweat it out today in the fields, please?
Verse 7, "She said, please let me glean," this is to Boaz, "and gather after the reapers." Notice how polite she is. I just wanted to point that out. He's spiritual, and he has a large personality, a large heart, a generous heart. But she, too, is very, very sweet to her mother-in-law, to Boaz, saying please.
Moms, dads, if your teenage son or daughter came to you and said, mom and dad, please can I clean up my room and then clean up the rest of the house? [LAUGHTER] You might need therapy for a month or two. It's not something you'd expect. But this gal is sweet, and polite, and says, please. Now think about what she has gone through. She has lost her father-in-law, Elimelech. She has lost her husband. She has made a long journey. She's in a very foreign place to her. And she seems to be untainted by that-- not weathered, not beaten down by the hard, harsh circumstances of life. She has every reason to be bitter too, but she's not-- please, please.
Compare this gal to another gal you'll meet later on in John chapter 4, a woman at the well of Sumeria who's very terse, and curt, and cynical toward Jesus. You know, she's been married to five husbands. She's living with a guy who's not her husband. And Jesus has a conversation with her. And she answers back in this flippant, back-of-the-hand kind of a way. She is very bitter. Life has beaten her down, but not this one. So it doesn't have to.
All that to say, it doesn't have to. Attitude is, in my opinion, what makes a woman attractive. OK, she might have looks. But looks, for any man or any woman, are temporary. Am I right about that? Can I get an Amen to that? I don't look like I used to look. I'm aware of that. People change physically. That's why Proverbs 31 says, "Beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised." A woman who has a sweet attitude and personality is attractive, and that attraction stays over the long haul. So enough of that.
"Boaz said to the servant," verse 5 "who was in charge of the reapers, whose young woman is this? The servant who was in charge of the reapers answered and said, it is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. And she said, please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves. So she came, and has continued from morning until now. She rested a little in the house. Then Boaz said to Ruth, you will listen, my daughter, will you not? Do not go to glean in another field," though, she could. The law said she could go into any field she wants. That's the law of Leviticus.
But he says, no need to go into any other field. "Nor go from here, but stay close to my young women. Let your eyes be on the field, which they reap and go after them. Have I not commanded the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn." I love this. It's the first anti-sexual harassment law in history. And it's by Boaz. I've already instructed the young men, lay off. Don't make a pass at her. Just let her do her thing and reap.
"She fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, why have I found favor in your eyes that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner? And Boaz answered and said to her, it has been fully reported to me that all you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband and how you have left your father and your mother, and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given to you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge. And she said, let me find favor in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and have spoken kindly to your maid servant, though I am not like one of your maid servants." So he had heard of her conversion. He had heard of her commitment to her mother-in-law. Your people will be my people. Your God will be my God.
"Now Boaz said to her," verse 14 "at mealtime come here, and eat of the bread, dip your piece of bread into the vinegar. So she sat beside the reapers, and passed the parched grain to her, and she ate, and was satisfied, and kept some back. And when she arose up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men saying, let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her." Let her take whatever she wants, whatever she finds.
Also-- get this, "Also, let some grain from the bundles," that you guys are carrying, you reapers, "let some of that fall purposely for her. Leave it that she may glean. Do not rebuke her. So she gleaned out on the field until evening, and beat out what she had gleaned." Again, this is very hard labor.
"And it was about an ephah of barley." It's about a half a month's wage. "She took it up, went into the city, and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned, so she brought out and gave to her what she had kept back after she had been satisfied. And her mother-in-law said to her, where have you gleaned today? Where did you work? Blessed be the one who took notice of you," because it was, you know, she brought in two weeks worth of food.
"So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, the man with whom I work today is Boaz. And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, praise God. Blessed be He of the Lord, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead. And Naomi said to her, the man is a relative of ours, a kinsman, one of our near kinsman. Then Ruth the Moabitess said, he also said to me, you shall stay close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest. And Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, it is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women and that people do not meet you in any other field."
Now here's what I like about Naomi. Ruth was married to her son at one time. Her son died. Now she meets Boaz. Ruth meets Boaz. Mom puts it all together-- goes kinsmen, possible redemption here, possible marriage here. She figures it all out. I'll go into that law next week in Israel a little bit-- that law of redemption. But she sees this. And she's going to be a matchmaker in this. Say-- this is good. This is the Lord. Just follow that guy, and do what he says. Now what I like about Naomi is she doesn't fold her arms and say, oh, well, whoever this guy is, he couldn't be the husband to you that my son was. He couldn't hold a candle to Mahlon or Chilion. None of that.
She's blessing this idea. She's releasing into a future possibility, which is one of the best gifts any parent can give to a child. I always ask children, what do your parents think of your relationship? And if they say, oh, great, then that's good. If they say, well, they think he's an idiot. [LAUGHTER] Well, OK, either he is an idiot, and they're really smart. Or he's not an idiot, and you're just going to have to live with your parents not liking him. But know this-- there's going to be problems in the future.
You have to be aware of this. If you're going to enter into this relationship, if they don't like him, you're going to have problems. Or if they say, oh, yeah, they love him so much. They've already planned the wedding-- that's also problematic. Best thing you can do is just release the bride and groom to each other. Let them work it out. So she is releasing her daughter-in-law, even though her daughter-in-law had been previously married to her own son. And then verse 23, we close this chapter where we end tonight, "So she stayed close by the young women of Boaz to glean until the end of the barley harvest and wheat harvest, and she dwelt with her mother-in-law."
Now the undercurrent in this book is the providence of God. The timing was already told us about-- beginning of the barley harvest. The place, the fields of Boaz. She could have been in any field. But all of these things are lining up, and God is working all things together for good to those who love him. And by the end of the book, we're going to have the genealogy of David already formed and mentioned. And that brings us forward-- that launches us forward to the coming of the Messiah, the son of David, Jesus Christ later on. I had more to say about that, but time's up. So we'll pick it up next week, and we'll finish the Book of Ruth in our study through the Bible. Let's pray.
Father, how we thank you that even in the darkest periods of history, a period like the Book of Judges, when there was moral relativism and existentialism abounded. And everybody decided in their own minds and hearts what was best. There was no central authority.
It was pure anarchy. That even in such a confusing time, You were at work. When it was dark, You were you were lighting a lamp. You were establishing the household of David. Father, in our own generation, as bleak and as dark as it feels and it seems, we look around, we hear the reports, You are on the throne. You are in control. You are doing something great and grand in the midst of it, behind the scenes. We don't know what. We're not shaken by the things we see. We read Your Word. We know what You say will happen in the last days.
So we are gladdened that in the midst of a sea of confusion, we have the strong moorings of faith that keep us grounded, that keep us afloat. Lord, just like Ruth, who came from a pagan background, and was convinced that the God of Israel was the true God, the Covenant God, and made a commitment to that God,
Lord, I pray that through our lives, through our witness, through our testimony, through our conversations, that people like her would also make a commitment to you. And people who are here tonight or are watching live stream or hearing it on the radio would also. If they find that life is out of control, that they'll give control to the God who controls everything. That they'll come back to You if they've wandered, they'll come to You for the first time if they've wandered but they have never come to You yet
If you have never surrendered your life to Christ, if you're sitting here in this auditorium, or if you're joining us via the internet or the radio-- if you've never given your life to Christ, this is a great opportunity for you, like these three gals, to turn around and go in God's direction.
All you do is give Him your life right where you're at. You turned to Him, and you say something like this, Lord, I admit I'm a sinner. Please forgive me. I place my trust in Jesus. I believe Jesus died on a cross. I believe Jesus rose again from the dead. I turn from my sin, and I turn to Jesus as my Savior. I want to follow Him as my Lord. Help me. Show me how. Fill me with hope. Fill me with peace, for I ask it in Jesus' name. Amen. Amen.
Let's all stand. We're going to close in a song of worship. If you did pray that prayer out loud, or under your breath, let somebody know. Let one of the leaders know after the service. If you did it online, if you're on a phone, text the word SAVED 505-509-5433. Or if you're on the website, click the button that says Know God, and you'll have somebody get in touch with you there. Let's close in a song.
For more resources from Calvary Church and Skip Heitzig, visit calvarynm.church. Thank you for joining us from this teaching in our series, Expound.