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GOD MOVES IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS

THE 52 GREATEST STORIES OF THE BIBLE  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  59:37
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The book of Ruth teaches us that God providentially guides and blesses all who trust Him. The book of Ruth summons Christians to be committed to Jesus Christ and to do His will at any cost. Faith is not believing in spite of the evidence but obeying in spite of the consequences.
The Prostitute and the Moabite According to the first verse of the book of Ruth, the story took place during the time of the judges. That’s why Ruth comes right after the book called Judges in our Bibles. The time of the judges was a 400-year period after Israel entered the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua and before there were any kings in Israel (roughly 1400 B.C. to 1000 B.C.).
Although some generations may be left out of the genealogy in Ruth 4:18–22, Boaz, who marries Ruth, is linked as a descendant from Rahab, the converted prostitute who lived when Israel first came into the Promised Land (Joshua 2:1, 3; 6:17, 23). We learn this from the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:5. This signals to us that remarkable things are in the offing. Why would a prostitute and a Moabitess be mentioned back to back in the genealogy of Jesus? Why would they be mentioned at all? We are getting in at the ground level of something amazing.
God at Work in the Worst of Times
You can see from the last verse of the book of Judges what sort of period it was.
Judges 21:25 ESV
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
It was a very dark time in Israel. The same gloomy pattern happened again and again: The people would sin, God would send enemies against them, the people would cry for help, and God would mercifully raise up a judge to deliver them (Judges 2:16–19).
From all outward appearances, God’s purposes for righteousness and glory in Israel were failing. But what the book of Ruth does for us is give us a glimpse into the hidden work of God during the worst of times.
Consider the last verse
Ruth 4:22 ESV
Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.
The child born to Ruth and Boaz during the period of the judges is Obed. Obed becomes the father of Jesse, and Jesse becomes the father of David who led Israel to her greatest heights of glory. One of the main messages of this little book is that God is at work in the worst of times.
Putting in Place the Ancestry of Christ
Even through the sins of his people, God plots for their glory. It was true at the national level. And we will see that it is true at the personal, family level too. God is at work in the worst of times. He is at work doing a thousand things no one can see but him. In the case of this story, God is at work preparing the way for Christ in a manner no one can see. The reason we know it is because the book ends by connecting Ruth and Boaz with David the king. The last words of the book are
Ruth 4:21–22 ESV
Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.
Jesus identified himself as “the son of David” (Matthew 22:41–46). He forged a link straight from himself, over all the intervening generations, to David and Jesse and Obed and Ruth. Knowing how this book ends gives us a sense, as we begin, that nothing will be insignificant here. Huge things are at stake. God is putting in place the ancestry of Jesus the Messiah, whose kingdom will endure forever (Isaiah 9:7).
Behind a Frowning Providence
As a means to that end—and everything is a means to glorifying Christ—the book of Ruth reveals the hidden hand of God in the bitter experiences of his people. The point of this book is not just that God is preparing the way for the coming of the King of Glory, but that he is doing it in such a way that all of us should learn that the worst of times are not wasted. They are not wasted globally, historically, or personally.
When you think he is farthest from you, or has even turned against you, the truth is that as you cling to him, he is laying foundation stones of greater happiness in your life.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
What William Cowper says in these lines is a description of how God brings about the eternal salvation of his people. It’s the way he governs history, and it is the way he governs our lives. The book of Ruth is one of the most graphic stories of how God hides his smiling face behind a frowning providence.
The Miseries of Naomi
Ruth 1:1–5 ESV
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. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.
These verses describe the misery of Naomi—the frowning providence, as we will see. Naomi is one of the three main characters in this drama. She will become the mother-in-law of Ruth. She is an Israelite with her husband Elimelech and two sons Mahlon and Chilion. They are from Bethlehem where we know Jesus will be born one day—which raises our awareness again of how explosive this book is with connections to the Messiah.
Naomi, not her husband or sons or Ruth, is the focus of the first chapter of Ruth. This chapter is about her miseries—her bitter providence. The first misery (1:1) is a famine in Judah where Naomi and her husband Elimelech and her sons live. Naomi knows who causes famines. God does. Perhaps she learned this from the Scriptures, which say in
Leviticus 26:3–4 ESV
“If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.
In other words, God rules the rain. When the rains are withheld, this is the hard hand of God.
Is This Blasphemous or Comforting?
Please know that I am aware of how unacceptable this truth is to some. That horrific suffering serves God’s purposes is not seen as good news by many. Flesh-and blood calamities, like the tsunami of December 2004, are so devastating in the human agony that they cause that many Christians cannot ascribe them to the plan of God. For example, David Hart wrote in the Wall Street Journal,
When confronted by the sheer savage immensity of worldly suffering—when we see the entire littoral rim of the Indian Ocean strewn with tens of thousands of corpses, a third of them children’s—no Christian is licensed to utter odious banalities about God’s inscrutable counsels or blasphemous suggestions that all this mysteriously serves God’s good ends.
These are strong words. And I strongly disagree with them. It is the message of the book of Ruth, as we will see, that all things mysteriously serve God’s good ends. Thousands of Christians who have walked through fire and have seen horrors embrace God’s control of all things as the comfort and hope of their lives. It is not comforting or hopeful in their pain to tell them that God is not in control. Giving Satan the decisive control or ascribing pain to chance is not true or helpful. When the world is crashing in, we need assurance that God reigns over it all.
I say these words because they are true. I also say them because after twenty-eight years of ministering to real people, I know they are precious to those who suffer. The people who most cherish the sovereignty of God in suffering are those exposed to the greatest dangers.
For example, on April 20, 2001, the Peruvian Air Force shot down a missionary plane, mistaking it for a drug courier. In the plane were the pilot Kevin Donaldson and a missionary family, Jim and Veronica Bowers and their two children, seven-month-old Charity and six-year-old Cory. Veronica had Charity in her lap sitting in the back of the Cessna 185. As the bullets sprayed the plane, one of them entered Veronica’s back and passed through her and into her daughter. Both died. The pilot, with shattered knees, crash-landed the plane in a river, and the other three survived.
Seven days later at the memorial service in Fruitport, Michigan, Jim Bowers gave his testimony and explained why the sovereignty of God in the deaths of his wife and daughter was the rock under his feet.
Most of all I want to thank God. He’s a sovereign God. I’m finding that out more now. . . . Some of you might ask, “Why thank God?” . . . Could this really be God’s plan for Roni and Charity; God’s plan for Cory and me and our family? I’d like to tell you why I believe so.
He goes on to give fifteen reasons. In that context, he says, “Roni and Charity were instantly killed by the same bullet. (Would you say that’s a stray bullet?) And it didn’t reach Kevin, who was right in front of Charity; it stayed in Charity. That was a sovereign bullet.” But what about the Peruvian fighter pilots? Didn’t they have wills? Didn’t they make mistakes or, perhaps, even sin against an innocent missionary family? Jim Bowers said, “Those people who did that simply were used by God. Whether you want to believe it or not. I believe it. They were used by Him, by God, to accomplish His purpose in this, maybe similar to the Roman soldiers whom God used to put Christ on the cross.”
We will see from the story of Ruth and from the cross of Christ that in this life our hope in the next depends on God’s reign over all things. It may be hard to embrace when the pain is great, but far worse would be the weakness of God and his inability to stop the blowing of the wind and the flight of a bullet.
The Parallels with Joseph and Egypt
Naomi knew that God ruled the rain and, therefore, the famine. This was implicit in the Scriptures. Or she may have learned it from the story of Joseph. In fact, there are some striking parallels between Naomi’s circumstances and Joseph’s. Joseph, the son of Jacob, was sold into slavery in Egypt by his own brothers
Genesis 37:28 ESV
Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt.
In the end, this would prove to be the salvation of the very brothers who sold him. Indeed, it would save the entire people of Israel—and preserve the ancestral line of the Messiah. A famine struck the land of Israel, and Joseph proved to be the one who provided food for his family.
The parallels in Naomi’s situation are that she was taken to a foreign land and that a famine threatened her life and the life of God’s people and the ancestral line of the Messiah was preserved in a way no one would have dreamed—a Moabite woman became the ancestor of the Son of God.
The point I am focusing on here is that Naomi knew that famines were from God.
Psalm 105:16–17 ESV
When he summoned a famine on the land and broke all supply of bread, he had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
describes God’s action in connection with Joseph’s sale into Egypt and the famine that came. It says that God “summoned” the famine and that God had “sent” Joseph. In other words, the famine and the rescue from famine were planned by God. The psalm says, “When [God] summoned a famine on the land and broke all supply of bread, he had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.”
This is what Naomi believed about the famine of her own day. It was of God. This is going to be very important in deciding whether she is right when she says later in this chapter,
Ruth 1:21 ESV
I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”
After we learn that there is a famine in Israel, we see the family leaving Israel and going to Moab to escape the famine. Moab is a pagan land with foreign gods (Ruth 1:15; Judges 10:6). Going to Moab was playing with fire. God had called his people to be separate from the surrounding lands. So when Naomi’s husband dies (Ruth 1:3), what could she feel but that the judgment of God had followed her and added grief to famine? “The hand of the LORD has gone out against me” (1:13).
Then her two sons take Moabite wives, one named Orpah, the other named Ruth (1:4). And again the hand of God falls. Verse 5 sums up Naomi’s tragedy after ten years of childless marriages: “Both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.” A famine, a move to pagan Moab, the death of her husband, the marriage of her sons to foreign wives, ten years of apparent childlessness for both of her daughters-in-law, and the death of her sons—blow after blow, tragedy upon tragedy. Now what?
In verse 6, Naomi gets word that “the Lord had visited his people and given them food.” So she decides to return to Judah. Her two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, go with her, partway it seems, but then in verses 8–13 she tries to persuade them to go back home.
I think there are three reasons why the writer devotes so much space to Naomi’s effort to turn Ruth and Orpah back. First, the scene emphasizes Naomi’s misery.
For example,
Ruth 1:11 ESV
But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands?
In other words, Naomi has nothing to offer them. Her condition is worse than theirs. If they try to be faithful to her and to the name of their husbands, they will find nothing but pain. So she concludes at the end of verse 13,
Ruth 1:13 ESV
would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.”
In other words, Don’t come with me because God is against me. Your life may become as bitter as mine.
The second reason for verses 8–13 is to prepare us for a custom in Israel that is going to turn everything around for Naomi in the following chapters. The custom was that when an Israelite husband died, his brother or near relative was to marry the widow and preserve the brother’s name (Deuteronomy 25:5–10). Naomi is referring to this custom (in verse 11) when she says she has no sons to marry Ruth and Orpah. She thinks it is hopeless for Ruth and Orpah to remain committed to the family name. She doesn’t remember, evidently, that there is another relative named Boaz who might perform the duty of a brother.
There’s a lesson here. When we have decided that God is against us, we usually exaggerate our hopelessness. We become so bitter we can’t see the rays of light peeping out around the clouds. It was God who broke the famine and opened the way home (1:6). It was God who preserved a kinsman to continue Naomi’s line
Ruth 2:20 ESV
And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.”
And it was God who constrains Ruth to stay with Naomi. But Naomi is so embittered by God’s hard providence that she doesn’t see his mercy at work in her life.
The third reason for verses 8–13 is to make Ruth’s faithfulness to Naomi appear amazing. Verse 14 says that Orpah kissed Naomi goodbye, but Ruth clung to her. Not even another entreaty in verse 15 can get Ruth to leave:
Ruth 1:15 ESV
And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.”
No. She will stay. This is all the more amazing after Naomi’s grim description of their future with her. Ruth is still young
Ruth 2:5 ESV
Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?”
Nevertheless, she stays with Naomi in spite of an apparent future of widowhood and childlessness. Naomi painted the future very dark, and Ruth took her hand and walked into it with her.
The amazing words of Ruth are found in
Ruth 1:16–17 ESV
But Ruth said, “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 shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”
The more you ponder these words, the more amazing they become. Ruth’s commitment to her destitute mother-in-law is simply astonishing.
First, it means leaving her own family and land.
Second, it means, as far as she knows, a life of widowhood and childlessness, because Naomi has no man to give her, and if she married a non-relative, Ruth’s commitment to Naomi’s family would be lost. Third, it means going to an unknown land with a new people and new customs and new language. Fourth, it was a commitment even more radical than marriage: “Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried” (1:17). In other words, she will never return home, not even if Naomi dies.
But the most amazing commitment of all is this: “Your God [will be] my God” (1:16). Naomi has just said in verse 13, “The hand of the LORD has gone out against me.” Naomi’s experience of God was bitterness. But in spite of this, Ruth forsakes her religious heritage and makes the God of Israel her God. Perhaps she had made that commitment years before, when her husband told her of the great love of God for Israel and his power at the Red Sea and his glorious purpose of peace and righteousness. Somehow or other, Ruth had come to trust in Naomi’s God in spite of Naomi’s bitter experiences.
Here we have a picture of God’s ideal woman—and we will see more of her quality later. Faith in God that sees beyond present bitter setbacks. Freedom from the securities and comforts of the world. Courage to venture into the unknown and the strange. Radical commitment in the relationships appointed by God. This is the woman of
Proverbs 31:25 ESV
Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.
who looks into the future with confidence in God and laughs at the coming troubles: “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” Ruth is one of
1 Peter 3:5–6 ESV
For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
It is a beautiful thing to watch a woman like this serve Christ with courage. May God grant our church Ruth-like women.
So Ruth and Naomi return together to Bethlehem in Judah. “And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, ‘Is this Naomi?’” (1:19). That is a painful question not only because they see that she is older and with no husband and no sons, but also because the name Naomi means “pleasant” or “sweet.” So she responds,
Ruth 1:20–21 ESV
She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”
What do you make of Naomi’s theology?
I would take Naomi’s theology any day over the sentimental views of God that permeate so many churches today. Endless excuses are made for God’s sovereignty.
Naomi is unshaken and sure about three things: God exists, God is sovereign, and God has afflicted her.
The problem with Naomi is that the story of Joseph has not gotten into her bones. We mentioned that story earlier. Joseph too went into a foreign country. He was sold as a slave. He was framed by an adulteress and put in prison. He had every reason to say, with Naomi, “The Almighty has dealt bitterly with me.” But he was never embittered against God. God turned it all for Joseph’s personal good and for Israel’s national good.
The key lesson in Genesis 50:20 is this: “As for you [Joseph says to his brothers], you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” Naomi is right to believe in a sovereign, almighty God who governs the affairs of nations and families—and gives each day its part of pain and pleasure, as the old Swedish hymn says. But she needs to open her eyes—the eyes of her heart—to the signs of his merciful purposes.
It was God who took away the famine and opened a way home. Naomi “had heard in the fields of Moab that the LORD had visited his people and given them food” (1:6). Just as surely as God brought the famine, God took it away. Naomi could see that. But she could not see all that God was doing. Later she will be able to look back, in the same way we can when we read the book a second time, and see the pointers of hope.
Bitterness makes one blind to blessings.
For example, notice the delicate touch of hope at the end of
Ruth 1:22 ESV
So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.
If Naomi could only see what this is going to mean. The barley field is where Ruth will meet Boaz, her future husband.
Not only that, Naomi needs to open her eyes to Ruth. What a gift! What a blessing! Yet as she and Ruth stand before the people of Bethlehem, Naomi says in verse 21, “The LORD has brought me back empty.” Not so, Naomi! You are so weary with the night of adversity that you can’t see the dawn of rejoicing.
Seeing is a precious gift. And bitterness is a powerful blindness. What would Naomi say if she could see only a fraction of the thousands of things God was doing in the bitter providences of her life? For example, what if she knew that God was choosing an “unclean” outsider, a Moabitess—just like he chose Rahab the prostitute (Matthew 1:5; Joshua 2:1) and Tamar who played the prostitute (Matthew 1:3; Genesis 38:15)—as the kind of person he wanted in the bloodline of his Son, so that no one could boast in Jewishness—or any other ethnicity? What if she knew that part of what God was doing was shaping a genealogy for the Messiah that would humble the world?
What if she could see that in Ruth she would gain a man-child, and that this man-child would be the grandfather of the greatest king of Israel, and that this king of Israel would be the ancestor of the King of kings, Jesus Christ, the Lord of the universe? If she had trusted God that such things were in the offing, she may have said,
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
So the chapter ends with Naomi full of sorrow and with the horizon brightening with hope.
Let’s draw together some of the lessons of this chapter.
God’s Sovereign Rule
Naomi got this much right. God the Almighty reigns in all the affairs of men. He rules the affairs of nations (Daniel 2:21) and the flight of birds (Matthew 10:29). His providence extends from the U.S. Congress to your kitchen. Whatever else the great women of faith doubted, they never doubted that God governed every part of their lives and that none could stay his hand (Daniel 4:35).
He gives rain, and he takes rain (Job 38:26; Psalm 147:8). He gives life, and he takes life (Job 1:21). He governs the roll of dice (Proverbs 16:33) and the rise of kings (Daniel 2:21). Nothing—from toothpicks to tyrants—is ultimately self-determining. Everything serves (willingly or not) the “the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11). God is the all-encompassing, all-pervading, all governing reality.
Naomi was right, and we should join her in this conviction. God the Almighty reigns in all the affairs of men.
God’s Mysterious Providence
God’s providence is sometimes very hard. It’s true, God had dealt bitterly with Naomi—at least in the short run, it could only feel like bitterness. Perhaps someone will say, “It was all owing to the sin of going to Moab and marrying foreign wives.” Maybe so. But not necessarily.
Psalm 34:19 ESV
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
Neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament promises that believers will escape affliction in this life.
Acts 14:22 ESV
strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
1 Peter 4:19 ESV
Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
There is no sure connection between our suffering and our behavior. It is not at all certain, therefore, that Naomi’s affliction was owing to God’s displeasure with her.
But suppose Naomi’s calamity was owing to her disobedience. That makes the story doubly encouraging because it shows that God is willing and able even to turn his judgments into joys. If Ruth was brought into the family by sin, it is doubly astonishing that she is made the grandmother of David and ancestor of Jesus Christ. Don’t ever think that the sin of your past means there is no hope for your future.
God’s Good Purposes
That leads to the third lesson. Not only does God reign in all the affairs of men, and not only is his providence sometimes hard, but in all his works his purposes are for the good and the greater happiness of his people. Who would have imagined that in the worst of all times—the period of the judges—God was quietly moving in the tragedies of a single family to prepare the way for the greatest king of Israel?
But not only that, he was working to fill Naomi and Ruth and Boaz and their friends with great joy. If anything painful has fallen on you to make your future look hopeless, learn from Ruth that God is at work for you right now to give you a future and a hope. Trust him. Wait patiently. The ominous clouds are big with mercy and will break with blessing on your head.
Freedom and Courage like Ruth’s
Finally, we learn that if you trust the sovereign goodness and mercy of God to pursue you all the days of your life, then you are free for radical love like Ruth’s. If God calls, you can leave family, you can leave your job, you can leave your homeland, and you can make risky commitments and undertake new ventures. Or you can find the freedom and courage and strength to keep a commitment you already made.
Mary Slessor (1848–1915) was a courageous missionary to Calabar (Nigeria). She was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, and was converted as a youth. “It was hell-fire that drove her into the Kingdom, she would sometimes say. But once there she found it to be a kingdom of love and tenderness and mercy.”
She was given a Bible, and her life changed.
Most of all it was the story of Christ that she pored over and thought about. His Divine majesty, the beauty and grace of His life, the pathos of His death on the Cross, that affected her inexpressibly. But it was His love, so strong, so tender, so pitiful, that won her heart and devotion and filled her with happiness and peace that suffused her inner life like sunshine. In return she loved Him with a love so intense that it was often a pain. . . . As the years passed she surrendered herself more and more to His influence, and was ready for any duty she was called upon to do for Him, no matter how humble or exacting it might be. It was this passion of love and gratitude, this abandonment of self, this longing for service, that carried her into her life-work.
Her training for the hardships and dangers of missions was on the city streets. She volunteered as a teacher in a mission school. She and others ventured outdoor ministry and were pelted with mud and stones.
There was one gang that was resolved to break up the mission with which she had come to be identified. One night they closed in about her on the street. The leader carried a leaden weight at the end of a piece of cord, and swung it threateningly around her head. She stood her ground. Nearer and nearer the missile came. It shaved her brow. She never winced. The weight crashed to the ground. “She’s game, boys,” he exclaimed. To show their appreciation of her spirit they went in a body to the meeting. There her bright eyes, her sympathy, and her firmness shaped them into order and attention.
When people objected to her going to Calabar, which was called “the white man’s grave,” she would answer that “Calabar was the post of danger, and was therefore the post of honour.”
The reason Mary Slessor could act with courage in the cause of Christ was that she knew herself to be secure under the wings of God. Not that she could not be killed, but that even the hand of death was the hand of Christ.
I do not like that petition in the Prayer Book, From sudden death, good Lord, deliver us. I never could pray it. It is surely far better to see Him at once without pain of parting or physical debility. Why should we not be like the apostle in his confident outburst of praise and assurance, “For I am persuaded . . . ”? Don’t talk about the cold hand of death—it is the hand of Christ.
When you believe in the sovereignty of God and that he loves to work mightily for those who trust him, it gives a freedom and courage that isn’t abandoned in hard times. The story of Ruth—and of all the courageous women who followed her—gives us a glimpse into the hidden work of God during the worst of times. And so like all the other Scriptures, as Paul says (Romans 15:4, 13), the book of Ruth was written that we might abound in hope—and in that hope live lives of Christ-exalting courage.
The Glory of Christ
The ground of our love-releasing hope is not only that in the worst of times God is at work generally for our good, but also that he is working all things specifically for the glory of his Son, Jesus Christ—son of David, son of Jesse, son of Obed, son of Ruth the Moabitess. We “cheated” and read the end of Ruth first. This is where it is all going
Ruth 4:21–22 ESV
Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.
And the glory of Christ is supremely the glory of grace. And that grace was shown supremely in the cross where all our sins were covered and all God’s promises are secured. Every lasting blessing that came to Ruth and Naomi and Boaz was bought by the blood of Christ a millennium after the blessing was given. Without Christ, sin has no final remission. And where sin has no remission, guilt remains. And where guilt remains, the wrath of God remains. And where the wrath of God remains, there is no lasting blessing, but only everlasting misery.
Therefore, the very wonder of God’s gracious providence to make a Moabite an ancestor of Jesus was itself made possible by the death of Jesus for that Moabite on Calvary. The blessings of Christ’s blood flow backward and forward in history.
Romans 3:25 ESV
whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
In other words, all of Ruth’s sins were laid on Jesus when he died. And all of God’s wrath toward her was removed. God counted her as righteous because of Christ. Christ was the ground of all the good that she received. And all of it magnifies his glory
In His sovereign design, God ordains sorrowful tragedy to set the stage for surprising triumph.
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