Ruth: God Brings Outsiders In
Well good morning, Forest Glen. It’s good to be with you all. For those of you I haven’t met yet, my name’s Dan Osborn and I’m one of the Pastors over at our Near North location.
Well good morning, Forest Glen. It’s good to be with you all. For those of you I haven’t met yet, my name’s Dan Osborn and I’m one of the Pastors over at our Near North location.
Grateful for Scott.
Honor of preaching his last Sunday at park
Scott’s Party at 6:30 in the Auditorium
This morning we’re continuing in our series call Great Stories as we’re looking at some stories form the Old Testament that point to the greater story of Jesus and the Gospel. This morning we get the chance to look at what I think is a literary master piece..the story of Ruth! So if you have a bible, would you open with me to the book of Ruth. If you have one of the house bibles, it’s on page 222.
Let me pray and we’ll get started.
The Story of Ruth:
The Story of Ruth:
Alright, look with me starting at v. 1. “In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons.”
V. 1 helps set the scene for us.
This story takes place during the time of the Judges.
Like the Dark Ages… “Every did what was right in their own eyes”.
And there a famine in Bethlehem.
And this is where we meet our first character, Elimelech. He moves his family away from Bethlehem to the land of Moab. Let me show you on a map where this is [MAP of MOAB]. Because of the geography of the area, the region of Moab often wasn’t affected by famines like other places in that area. Here’s what the region looks like today…[PICTURE]
But this an odd thing for Elimelech to do because Moab was NOT part of the Land that God had promised to the Israelites...in fact, often the Israelites and Moabites were at war with each other…and yet Elimelech takes his family out of the Land God had promised to them and moves to live as refugees.
And they end up living in Moab for about 10 years.
While they’re there, Elimelech dies, and Naomi is left with her two sons. Now loosing her husband would have been a significant threat to Naomi, because as a woman in that culture, there was not much she was able to do for her own protection…but she still had her two adult sons to take care of her. After he dies, she marries off her sons to Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth.
And then, we're told, her sons died. We don’t know why…we’re not told. But beyond the grief and sorrow they would've felt, what we need to understand is that this puts the three women in a very dangerous position. It was nearly impossible for a woman to provide for herself in that day, let alone someone in Naomi’s position who is older and not likely to get married again…because where is she going to go? Where is she going to live? How’s she going to provide for herself? In her eyes, she's lost everything. So here’s Naomi…she’s poor…a refugee…a widow…she has no sons and no hope left at all that things will work out for her.
Eventually, the famine back in Bethlehem ends, so Naomi tells her daughters-in-law to head back to their families and remarry while they still can.
She’s going back to Bethlehem.
And you get this pretty bleak picture of Naomi…because she’s not going back to anything…she’s going back because when she dies in Bethlehem, at least she’ll die at home.
And the three women have this final moment together…and Orpah kisses Naomi one last time and heads back to her family…but Ruth…stays. She will not leave Naomi’s side.
Look at Ruth’s response in v. 16. “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go, I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shape be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”
This is a deep commitment from Ruth, isn’t it? This is really a profound statement of faith, from someone who is NOT even an Israelite…remember, she's a Moabite! See Ruth is young enough to go back home and just have this whole experience a be a rough chapter in her life…but she can get remarried…she can still have kids…she can have a fresh start! But if she goes with Naomi…not only is she a widow…but she’ll be a foreigner…a stranger…an outsider in Israel.
But Ruth chooses the thing that doesn’t make any sense. And she leaves Moab, her home, to live Bethlehem with Naomi.
You can image after being gone for 10 years, when they get back to Bethlehem, people take notice…it’s a small town—no more than a few hundred people—people are amazed that Naomi is back! And they have questions for her about what’s been going on…why she decided to come back and as she begins to tell the story, she tells everyone “Don’t call me Naomi anymore…her name actually means ‘Pleasant’ or ‘Sweet’…call me Mara…which means bitter…for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.” And she explains everything that’s happened with her husband and her sons and how Ruth, her daughter-in-law, the Moabite, has decided to stay with her…
But already there’s a glimmer of hope in their story because they arrive back in Bethlehem just as the barley harvest was getting started.
Ruth can go out to the fields and ‘glean’.
Gleaning is gathering left overs…the crops that were left behind or had fallen to the ground out in the fields. And the reason she could do this was because the Israelites had actually been commanded by God to make sure that they left part of the crop behind so that people in situations like Naomi and Ruth’s could have way to get some food!
Let me show you a couple places where God set this up.
…it’s on the screen behind me,
“And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.”
In other words, don’t touch the edge of the field and don’t pick up the stuff you dropped.
Let me show you a picture of what this would have looked like [SLIDE].
And these things were done for the poor, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow…which is really a general way of talking about the person in need…the person who can't provide for themselves…for whatever reason.
Now there’re a couple different ways the bible talks about a person in that situation…with words like: Foreigner, Stranger, Alien, Sojourner…but all these things are really talking about the same thing…an outsider…someone who was either NOT an Israelite—God’s people, or because their situation excludes them from the rest of the community…the bottom line is that it’s for the outsider…the one who doesn’t belong. And yet in commanding these, God shows kindness to the outsider.
And so Ruth, the outsider, is out to glean in the fields. Look with me at chapter 2, v. 1. It says this, “Now Naomi had a relative of her husbands, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz.”
Boaz, we find out, has got a pretty good situation for himself. He’s a little older in life, but he’s got a good foundation, He’s a property owner…he’s got some money…he’s got a good number of people who work for him in the fields, and he is a worthy man which is the bible’s way of saying, ‘he’s legit’…he’s a man of character. He is cousin of Elimelech. But most importantly in this story…he’s single.
And while Ruth is gleaning she happened to come to the part of the filed belonging to Boaz.
And Boaz sees Ruth in the field and he doesn’t know her, so he asks one of his workers who she it. And this guy gives the back story a little bit, but he also goes out of his way to let Boaz know that Ruth is an outsider and tells him that she’s a Moabite whose come back with Naomi from Moab.
And so, Boaz calls her over, and they begin to have this conversation. And yet even though she is an outsider…Boaz shows a deep kindness to her. He tells her she doesn’t need to go out to anyone else fields, but that she can continue to glean from his field as long as she needs…he promises that he will protect her from anyone harassing her while she works, AND he will get water for her to drink when she’s thirty! But the thing is, this is way more that what God had commanded his people to do for the outsider. Boaz was going above and beyond what he was supposed to do. And Ruth picks up on it!
After Boaz lays all this out, she says in v.10 ‘Why have I found favor in our eyes, that you should take notice of me, since i am a foreigner?’ This isn’t what she expected to happen…she knows it’s more than she deserves!
And Boaz tells her he’s heard all about what she's done for Naomi…about how she had left everything she knew to come and be with Naomi and to care of her. And look what he says in chapter 2 v. 12, “The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be give you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” Which really is an incredible picture of God’s provision and protection.
And from that moment on, Boaz begins to treat Ruth like she’s part of his very own family. He call’s her, ‘My Daughter’. He has her come and eat a meal with him after she's been working in the fields…and then when she heads back out to work, Boaz tells he servants to basically lay out the grain for her to come around and gather…and when the day is over, she heads back to Naomi with a huge stock pile of barley.
Naomi can’t believe how much she’s brought home…it’s close to 30 pounds of grain…and says, ‘Where’d you get all this?!” And Ruth tells her, ‘I was at the fields of a man named Boaz.’
And as soon as Naomi hears that name, something clicks for her because she remembers that Boaz was actually a relative of her husband! And so she explains to Ruth that he is actually one of the family redeemers! Now let me pause here for a moment because we’ve got know what a family Redeemer, or Kinsman Redeemer is.
The practice is explained again in
“If your brother becomes poor and sells part of his property, then his nearest redeemer shall come and redeem what his brother has sold.
See, if you needed to sell off your land because you lost your money, the redeemer would step in and buy, or redeem the land so that the land would at least stay in the family name! It would a way to continue to provide for that family. The point is, a redeemer would step in to do for the family what the family couldn’t do for themselves…it was a way to protect that family!
Now, there was a significant cost to redeeming, because at the very least you’d have to purchase the land, but you wouldn’t just get the land, you’d be expected to care for the land, and the things that came with the land…which in this case would be Naomi and Ruth. And this is what Boaz is able to do…he’s one of the eligible redeemers. And Naomi sees that Boaz would be in a place to provide and care for them by redeeming the land—and them!
So Naomi tells Ruth that she’s got to stick around more with Boaz…he's the guy…and she needs make sure that she gets some more FaceTime with him! And so Ruth continues to glean at his fields.
And yet after two months, nothing really happens between Ruth and Boaz. And this is a problem because it’s the end of the harvest season—how else are they gonna get food if Boaz doesn’t redeem them? So Naomi comes up with a plan. She tells Ruth that she needs to get all fixed up…and to head over to where Boaz is an get the ball rolling on this thing.
So Ruth goes over to Boaz in the evening after dinner and while he sitting there, relaxing, and she lays down at his feet and takes the corner of his robe and puts it over her.
Let me be clear: this is not dating advice.
This was a sign of submission to him, but even more than that, it was a reminder to Boaz of what he had already told Ruth back in chapter two. Remember, Boaz prays a blessing over Ruth—that she would be rewarded by the God under whose wing she has sought refuge!
And this is really Ruth’s way of saying, God is providing refuge for me through YOU! And she says in 3:9, “Spread your wings over your servant for you are a redeemer!” And Boaz immediately responds to what Ruth has just done…is willing to be the redeemer…but there’s one problem they need to work through…because there is someone in Bethlehem who is a closer relative to them, then Boaz and so this other person would be first inline to redeem the land and Ruth. So sends her home saying, “I’m going to go deal with this!”
So the next morning, Boaz heads to the city gates, the place where all legal business was taken care of, and he finds this other potential redeemer…calls him over and gets 10 of the city elders to be witnesses of what about to go down. And Boaz get’s a little sneaky here in the way he pitches his idea to this other guy!
He says, ‘Look, we both know what happened to Elimelech and now Naomi,, is selling the land! You’ve got first dibs on it. If you want it, take it…but if you don’t, let me know because then I’ll take it.’
And the guy really jumps on the opportunity, and says that he want the land…and then Boaz let’s him know about the one catch saying, ‘Just so you know, when you get the land your also going to have to take Ruth, the Moabite, the widow, as a wife so that you can perpetuate the line of her dead husband…’ Just FYI.
And the guy hears that and he’s no longer interested.
And so Boaz can go ahead with his plan…he marries Ruth and they have a son. And in doing this, Ruth is no longer considered an outsider—she has, in a very real sense, married into the family of God—but we also know that she has a genuine faith in the God of the Bible because of her confession back in chapter one.
But not only is Ruth cared for, so is Naomi! Because the rest of the women in Bethlehem recognize how amazingly God has provided for her…and while she has lost her sons, they reminder her of the blessing of Ruth, her daughter-in-law…who is better than 7 son!
And, she's a grandmother as Ruth and Boaz have a son named Obed…and look the way the book ends in chapter 4 v. 17…“And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.” The same David who would later be known as King David.
Now on one level, this is a really nice story, isn’t it?
But let me ask you a question. What’s the point? Why is Ruth’s story included in the bible? What makes it any more meaningful than a Nicholas Sparks novel? Why is this story here?
Climax: BIG IDEA
Climax: BIG IDEA
See, on a broad level, the story of Ruth is a beautiful story of how God takes someone who is an outsider…someone who doesn’t belong…someone who’s not part of God’s people, and brings them into His family…to be a part of His people!
The reason it’s in the bible is because the story of Ruth actually points to a much greater story! In fact, the story of Ruth is a microcosm of the whole Bible. You see, the idea that God brings outsiders in, is NOT unique to the book of Ruth, it is the same story the bible tells over and over again! It’s the great story of the bible! That God takes strangers, aliens, foreigners, outsiders…those who don’t belong…and brings them in. He brings them in to His family…to His community…to be His people…to be under His protection, to be in His care…with His provision…under the shadow of His wing..to find true joy, true hope, true peace, to LIVE THE WAY THEY WERE MENT TO LIVE…friends Ruth’s story shows us the greater story of how God, in his kindness, brings outsiders in!
And for better or for worse, we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of this same story.
But perhaps not where we might think.
See, my hunch is that most of us don’t have any real problem with the idea that “God brings outsiders in” because it is a very inclusive picture of God, isn’t it? But the more we think about that, there’s a point of clarification that we want to make, right? And we hear that idea, that God brings outsiders in…yes, amen, true! But the question is, “On what terms?” Because if there’s one thing we know, there is always a cost to belonging, right!
Some of us believe God ‘brings outsiders in’ because of what they do! As long as they're a pretty good person…then God will accept them. As long as they do A, B, and C…Then God will accept them. There’s some prerequisites…they need to hit all the right criteria…but then they’re eligible to be brought in.
On the other hand, maybe you believe there is no set qualifications…really no terms at all! That God will one day take ALL outsiders and simply bring them in to His family no matter what.
But these are no more than half-truths…because for us to really believe either of these is for us to radically misunderstand what it means to be a stranger…to be an outsider in the bible.
See, the haunting reality of scripture is that to be a stranger to God…to be an Outsider to God doesn’t mean he knows you any less…or is indifferent to you…to be an outsider is to be an enemy of God. To be a stranger is to be exposed to his Judgement. To be an outsider is to be exposed to his wrath! And friends, THIS is where we find ourselves in the story of Ruth!
You see, just like Ruth, all of us are sojourners…none of us actually belongs…all of us spiritual outsiders…in the same place as her.
And friends, we have to be honest…it is because of our sin that we are outsiders to God. This is a our human condition, that because of our sin, we have failed to live way God has commanded. And just for the record, here’ what I mean by sin: our failure to perfectly obey every single thing God has ever commanded us to do. I something as small as a moment of unjust anger toward your neighbor…a lingering glance at the girl on the beach…every half truth we’ve ever told…friends all of us have fallen into this camp!
The apostle Paul in the book of Ephesians says it this way…that as a result of our sin, our natural state is spiritually dead! And then he goes on to say, [SLIDE] “…remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having NO HOPE and without God in the world.”
Separated…alienated…strangers…You see, the story of Ruth highlights the deep human condition for all of us, that in our sin, we too are the strangers…WE’RE THE OUTSIDERS! And this is true of everybody!
And as outsiders, we have the same fate as Ruth, the Moabite—that apart from a redeemer, there is no hope to be anything more than an outsider before God!
And yet, while the story of Ruth reminds of the reality that we are all outsiders, it also points us to the greater hope of a true and better Boaz…and true and better Kinsman Redeemer!
See, it’s the Gospel that show us Jesus, our kinsman redeemer. And it’s the story of the Gospel that confirms there is nothing we can do to get God to bring us in…there is nothing we can do for ourselves to redeem ourselves! But, remember, the whole point of the Kinsman Redeemer was to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves!
Yet Jesus truly was our Kin…because he truly became like us—taking on flesh and dwelling among us. And he lived the perfect life we couldn’t live…being obedient to ALL of what God had commanded! Meeting every prerequisite that we couldn’t meet!
But even more than that, he became an outsider like us! You see, because it’s on the cross that Jesus has taken on all our sin! He had all of our failure…all of our inability…ALL OF OUR SIN placed on HIM as if it was his own, and not ours. Dying an outsiders death He became and outsider LIKE US, so that He could once and for all be an outsider FOR US. He was the true and better kinsman redeemer who fully did for us what we could not do ourselves!
See the story of the Gospel is the story of how Jesus first became an outsider like us, so that we might be brought in to the people of God like Him. Jesus became like us, so we could become like Him.
And because Jesus is our Kinsman Redeemer, we are no longer strangers and outsiders to God.
We are brought into His kingdom, under His reign, freed to live the way were intended to live with all joy, hope, and peace.
As a follower of Jesus, the story of Ruth’s redemption is YOUR story, because you were the stranger…but Jesus has redeemed you!!…because God, in his kindness, brings outsiders in.
Let me close with this:
Remember the outsider laws we looked at…
Two points of the ‘outsider’ laws in Leviticus—to remind them that they too were once outsiders and that God had taken them and brought them in as his people…but also to remind them that they were still sojourners in God’s land.
The same is true for us today…many places in the NT remind us that as followers of Jesus, we are still outsiders in this world…we are still outsiders in this city…but just like the Israelites, we are called to care for the outsiders because it’s a reminder for us of our own stories.
So the question we need to ask ourselves, is who are the outsiders God has brought near to me?
Spiritual outsider—the one whose far from God?
30,000+ refugees in Chicago land
Over 20% of population is foreign born.
How we care for those NOT like us…how we care for outsiders…says a lot about how we understand the Gospel, because how we care for the outsider is a picture of the Gospel…a picture of how God first cared for us.
Whatever it is, we are empowered by the Gospel to do it because God, in his kindness, brings outsiders in. That is your story…and by God’s grace it may be there’s too.
Would you pray with me?