- What are some of the choices you make each day and each week that have significant consequences for you personally and your family?
- Are there choices you have made in your past where you wish you would have chosen differently? If there are, consider the grace of Jesus, and this truth, “It’s time to depart from your Moab.” Confess those decisions of your past to him personally and as a family and ask him to help you make decisions that honor him from this day forward.
- Read Paul’s promise to the church in Colossians 1:9-12. For what does Paul say we should pray in verse 9? How does this prayer relate to the choices we make each day? What are the other fruits of praying verse 9 for yourself personally and your family as seen in verses 10-12?
- Prayer is essential to making good, God-glorifying, joy-generating choices. What are some other ways both personally and with others that will help you choose wisely? Consider reading Proverbs 11:14, 12:15, 19:20-21; 1 Corinthians 15:33; Psalm 19:7-14; 2 Timothy 3:16.
MIM: Your choices have consequences. Chose to follow Christ, trusting in the loving, wise sovereignty of God.
Beginning a new series this morning: Redemption’s Love Story
A perfect time for this Study: the month of February, the month of Valentines, the month of Love
Ruth is A BEAUTIFUL STORY OF LOVE
Between Naomi and Ruth (her daughter-in-law) who chooses not abandon her, she won’t quit on her because love doesn’t abandon and love doesn’t quit
Between Boaz and Ruth
Boaz (a godly man, a compassionate man, a kind man, a kinsman redeemer to Ruth) who chooses to love Ruth (a young, homeless, bankrupt, Moabite widow whose most priceless possession is faith)
But as we follow these characters through this story, we will see that the main character is not Naomi, or Ruth, or Boaz
The Main character is God.
And the main story line is not the beautiful coming together of two people
The main story is the glorious, coming together of God and man
It is the beautiful story of redeeming of love between God and us through Jesus Christ
The Old and New Testaments are not isolated accounts bound together by the spine of a book, but rather the progressive revelation of promises made and promises kept by the Creator God for his creation.
God’s redemptive plan is set in the third chapter of Genesis, prophesied and characterized throughout the Old Testament, revealed in the flesh in the Son of God in the Gospels, and proclaimed to the nations throughout the remainder of the New Testament.
You may find it interesting that Ruth never mentions God by name, but it is redemption by the sovereign hand of God that is plainly in view.
In fact, the Hebrew word for redemption in its various forms occurs 23 times throughout the four chapters of the narrative [^1]
And though Ruth never mentions God by name, Ruth is mentioned by name in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus the Messiah [^2] cementing this narrative’s position in the grand context of God’s redemptive work throughout the Scriptures.
So this is Ruth.
This is Redemption’s Love Story.
A. Setting the Stage [^3]
Sinfulness of Society in which this Story is Set
Period of the Judges
1,400-1050 BC – between death of Joshua & anointing of Israel’s 1st king, Saul
Dark ages of Israel’s history
1. Depth of Depravity
God’s people killing, stealing, raping
(a) Ignoring the Law (God’s law) for their own law
Living however they wanted – ANARCHY
“Every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6, 21:25)
(b) Ignoring God for their own gods
Surrounded by pagan Canaanites
Supposed to be different BUT they were like everybody else (sounds like some churches today)
Supplanted worship of the one, true God for the worship of false gods
Spiritual apostasy… Political anarchy… Pervasive rebellion (against God and His Word)
There was great depth of depravity, but there was…
2. Difference with Ruth
Set in the period of the Judges BUT set apart (micro view in a macro age)
(a) Judges relates:
decisions of leaders… deployment of armies… deliverance the Lord provided… for Israel as a whole
(b) Ruth chronicles:
the experiences… the occasion… the tribulation… the rescue/redemption… all of one family
And as some stories begin, this story begins with a decision/a choices…
B. Series of Choices with A Series of Consequences (v1-2)
Everyday we are presented with choices. Just consider a trip to the grocery store. At your typical American grocery or Big Box store:
- Crest toothpaste: 27 varieties
- Campbell’s condensed soup: 53 varieties
- Tropicana Pure Premium Orange Juice: eight sizes, from 8 to 128 ounces
- Breyers ice cream or frozen dairy dessert: Natural, French, Half the Fat, No Sugar Added, Extra Creamy, Homemade, Lactose Free, CarbSmart (and that’s just for vanilla ice cream)
- Cheerios cereal: Original, Honey Nut, Honey Nut Medley Crunch, Apple Cinnamon, Banana Nut, Frosted, Chocolate, Multi Grain, Multi Grain Peanut Butter, Cinnamon Burst, Dulce de Leche
- Tide liquid laundry detergent: Original Scent, Plus Febreze, Plus Febreze Sport, Free & Gentle, Plus Bleach Alternative, Coldwater, Clean Breeze, Mountain Spring, Plus Downy, With Acti-Life
- Head & Shoulders shampoo: Active Sport, Old Spice, Deep Clean, Hair Endurance, Refresh, Extra Strength for Men, Citrus Breeze, Ocean Lift, Dry Scalp Care with Almond Oil, Classic Clean, Sensitive Scalp Care, Itchy Scalp with Eucalyptus, Smooth & Silky, Extra Volume, Green Apple, Damage Rescue, Extra Strength, Clinical Strength, plus 7 more varieties [^4]
We’ve only gone down 6 aisles of the store and we’re already faced with a litany of choices to make!
Whether you choose Classic Clean or Extra Strength shampoo, it’s likely your life will continue in its same trajectory without much consequence.
BUT ALL CHOICES ARE NOT SO INCONSEQUENTIAL.
There are decisions that you will make today, and this week, that will have far reaching consequences.
1. Choice #1: Elimelech’s choice to move to Moab (vv1-2, 4)
Free to Choose but Not Free from the Consequences of Choice
Decisive moment with enormous consequences
Our decisions are important, because choices have consequences
Consequences are like compounding interest, they build on each other, and often quickly.
Choose wisely: Compounding joy like compounding interest on an investment account
Choose poorly: Compounding problems like compounding interest on a credit account. You can go in debt quickly
Reason for Elimelech’s Choice
Famine in Bethlehem
A Good Decision?
Not directly evaluated by the Bible
Commentators split – some say good, took matters into his own hands to rescue his family
HOWEVER, taking matters into his own hands is the opposite of trusting in the wise, loving, sovereign hand of God
When Elimelech took matters into his own hands:
- Elimelech abandoned the land God had given him
-Israelites were in the Promised Land, given by God to the Jews, set apart land to a set apart people
- Elimelech abandoned the fellowship of the people of God
-Moabites were the descendants of Lot’s (Abraham’s nephew) incestuous relationship with his daughter
-Moab enemy of Israel:
Oppressor of Israel in Judges
Cursed Israel in the wilderness (Num 22ff)
Not allowed to enter the assembly of the Lord (Deut 23:3ff)
- Elimelech abandoned the worship of the one true God at the Ark of the Covenant – He abandoned his place of worship
-Moabites worshipped a pagan god Chemosh and even practiced child sacrifice
-Took his family to a land surrounded by worshipers of a false god
-Moab wasn’t having a famine (grass looked greener) but not a desirable/wise location for family
“Well, they had to live” – We don’t have to live but he do have to die and stand before God and give an account of whether we obeyed him and trusted him to provide for us
- Elimelech abandoned the authority of God
-He did what seemed right in his own eyes
-Elimelech = my God is king
-God was not Elimelech’s king in practice, his god was himself
Many professing Christians are practicing atheists
(Mt 15:8, Jesus speaking, quoting Isa 29:13)
“…This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me.”
2. Choice #2: From a Sojourn to an Extended Stay (vv1-2)
v1: “…And a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the land of Moab…”
sojourn = reside temporarily as an alien
But in v2: “…Now they entered the land of Moab and remained there.”
Take a little while off from worship, from growing like Christ, from small group, from mission, but before you know it you are staying at home, God seems far away, your witness is not what it was.
The devil has you right where he wants you: Isolated, Overwhelmed, Ineffective
The consequences of your decision go beyond you into your family/relationships (v4)
When Elimelech decided to stay, he neglected the ways of God
“What is neglected in one generation, will be rejected by the next.”
This truth was demonstrated when his sons took Moabite wives.
With this Series of Choices, came compounding consequences, and compounding sorrows…
C. Suffering of a Family (vv2-7)
Naomi = pleasant, sweet
Elimelech and Naomi’s sons: Mahlon = weak, sterile….Chilion = pining, wasting away
1. Tragedy 1 – Loss of a husband
Once in Moab, Elimelech died
Irony: They moved to avoid death, but after they moved, Elimelech died
Death is in God’s hands, not ours.
We don’t have to live, but we do have to die and stand before God and give an account of whether we obeyed him & trusted him to provide for us
2. Tragedy 2 – Loss of her children
Sons had married Moabite women, lived 10 years, then died
The family was suffering. In particular, Naomi was suffering…
3. God Delivered Brokenness in the Life of Naomi
(a) Naomi was Suffering
- Endured famine
- Moved to another country – not easy being Jewish immigrants in enemy country
- Moved to a place with a different language and worship of different gods
- Husband died in a strange land
- Sons got married but she was without her husband
- Ten childless years and no grandchildren
- Ten childless years, no grandchildren, and then the nightmare of losing your own children (Not once but twice)
- Living among enemies of the people of God
- Left with no means of support
-A woman’s family was her career – when her husband and children died, so did her life’s work
(b) Bereaved, Socially & Economically Bankrupt, and Broken (v6)
Why do we so often have to hit rock bottom before we look up?
(v6) Naomi begins her return to the Lord
Physically returning, NOT YET returning in faith yet (c.f 1:11-13)
Like the prodigal son in Lk 15:17-19:
17 But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”’
Bereaved, Bankrupt, Broken
Not yet turning in faith, but beginning to turn back
This is God’s sovereign plan working its way out – God delivered brokenness
(c) Depart from Your Moab (v7)
-Naomi is bereaved, bankrupt, and broken
-She determines in her mind to return from the Land of Moab (v6)
-In verse 7, “So she departed from the place where she was…”
If we are going to return to the Lord, we have to depart from where we are.
Disciples Turn & Follow: Mt 4:19 “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Illustration: Gate E-5 [^5]
A pastor was preaching away from home and after the event he was going to the airport to go home. On the way he received a notice that his flight had been delayed, but to come to the airport anyway. When he arrived, he went with his carry-on to his gate, gate E-5. There were a hundred or so people on this flight and all of them were waiting, and waiting, and waiting… And all the while they were waiting, they were grumbling. They were becoming more and more unhappy, more and more aggravated, more and more uncomfortable, and more and more bitter. They all kept watching the message board at their gate and the message kept flashing, “Delayed.”
So the pastor went to the ticket counter at his gate, gate E-5, and he nicely asked the gate attendant, “Is this flight going to actually fly today? Do know if it’s going to be canceled, or if there is another flight I can take?” “Sir,” she replied, “All I know is that your flight is delayed, and you’re going to be here awhile.”
While the 100 or so people were waiting longer and longer, the more disgruntled they all got. The more miserable and bitter they became.
The pastor began to pray, “God, help me to learn something from this. Help me to make the most of this moment.” About that time, across on the other side of the terminal, at gate E-6, he heard another gate attendant, for the same airline, call out, “This is the final call for all passengers on Flight 116, boarding at gate E-6.” When he looked around he noticed that this flight was going to exactly the same location his flight was supposed to go. This flight could take him home. His flight had been delayed so long, that the later flight by his same airline was now boarding.
So he picked up his bags and he went to the gate. And he asked, “Mam, is there any way I can get on this flight?” And she asked, “Do you have a ticket?” The pastor replied, “I do, but it’s for the flight leaving from gate E-5.” The gate attendant said, “Oh. Well, you’re not going anywhere from E-5. And this flight is leaving.”
The pastor said to her, “Mam, I have my bags and I have a ticket, and I really want to go home. Are there no open seats on this flight?”
A wave of compassion came across the gate attendant, and she said, “Well, let me see what I can do.” She looked at the computer, and looked up at the pastor and said, “Sir, there are eight open seats on this flight. Since you have your ticket, your bags, and you’re ready to go, I can let you depart. But you’ve got to hurry. It’s time to depart.”
Immediately the pastor thought about all those other folks at gate E-5, and he called out to them, “Hey! There are seven open seats on this flight. It’s leaving here and going where you need to go. We can go on this flight! Come on! Let’s go!” But most of the people just looked at him, and continued to grumble in their bitterness. They didn’t believe him.
“Come on!” the pastor called out. If you’re going to get out of here you have to come now.” Behind him he heard the gate attendant say, “Sir, if you’re going to board this plane, you’ve got to leave now.”
Only three other people that were stuck at gate E-5 got up from where they were and boarded the plane with the pastor. All the others just grumbled in misery and anger and bitterness but never going anywhere. One was even heard to say, “The gods are against me! I can never catch a break.” At the same time the pastor is calling out, “There are still 3 open seats on this flight!”
Yet no one else gets up. No one else is willing to leave where they are.
The gate attendant says, “Sir, some people just won’t listen, but if you want to go, you’ve got to go now.” So the pastor boarded the plane. When he safely arrived home, he asked the attendant at the counter, “Can you tell me about the other flight.” To which she replied, “Oh. That flight. They’re still stuck at the airport. They’re not going anywhere soon.”
The truth is, if we are going to return to the Lord, we have to depart from where we are.
It’s time to depart form your Moab.
You’re at the terminal.
Jesus Christ has purchased your ticket at a bloody cross at Calvary.
He has opened the gate to depart from bitterness and oppression.
He has opened the gate to depart from hopelessness.
He has opened the gate of faith to you.
He has opened the gates of heaven to you.
But you’ve got to depart from where you are to return to the Lord.
For a pdf version: Choices (Part 1)-Ruth 1_1-7-Redemptions Love Story Series
[^1]: NASB Classic Reference Bible, Ruth, 253.
[^2]: Matthew 1:1-17 (NASB)
[^3]: Many thanks to my Seminary Old Testament Professor at Southeastern, Dr. Allan Moseley whose exposition of the first three chapters of Ruth had an indelible impact on my appreciation for Old Testament narrative, especially Ruth. While I no longer have the copies of his original sermon series that were given in that class, the influence of his expository work is certain.
[^4]: Jerry De Luca, Montreal West, Quebec, Canada; sources: The editors, “Too Many Choices?” Consumer’s Reports (3-14); Tim Wu, “The Case for Less”, The New Republic, April 29, 2013.
[^5]: Adapted from an illustration by Clayton King, “Stuck at E-5,” February 16, 2014.