Several weeks ago, I wrote about our church’s commitment to biblical exposition – the practicing of preaching (primarily) through entire books or sections of the Bible, letting the main point of each passage shape the main point of each sermon. Last Sunday, we completed our expositional study of the book of Ruth. There are a variety of reasons why we believed Ruth was the right book to walk through in this season of our church’s life. Why did we choose Ruth, and why did we choose Ruth right now?
1. The book of Ruth exalts Jesus. While this is true of all Scripture, it is beautifully and clearly true of Ruth. The story of Ruth is the story of God’s work in history to provide a king for his people. On the most basic level, that king is David – Israel’s greatest king. Immediately preceding Ruth, the book of Judges ends with no king in Israel – and the people in moral and spiritually disarray (see Judg 21:25). The book of Ruth ends with the royal family line – from Boaz to David – secure. On the most ultimate level, though, the king God provides for his people through this story is King Jesus – David’s greatest descendant. Ruth’s significance resonates most purely at this level. This entire story points to Christ, to his glory, and to God’s gracious work in providing a redeemer for us.
2. The book of Ruth teaches us how to read the Bible as Christians. All of Scripture is about Jesus. On the road to Emmaus, after his resurrection, Jesus taught his disciples that rightly understanding the Scriptures – “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets” (see Luke 24:27) – means understanding how they speak of him. If we read the Bible, any passage in the Bible, and don’t understand how it anticipates or culminates in the person and work of Jesus, we have not read the Bible as Christians should. The book of Ruth is like a primer on how to see Jesus in all of Scripture. The whole story culminates in the arrival of Jesus – the descendant of Ruth and Boaz. Along the way, Boaz is a type of Jesus – an historical person whose life and work foreshadow the life and work of Jesus. It is possible to read Ruth and not think of Christ, but it isn’t easy! The story is fullest and richest in the ways it points to Christ.
3. The book of Ruth reveals the beauty of God’s providence. God uses hard things – death, famine, barrenness, and poverty – to accomplish his purposes in Ruth. The good and glorious things that come from the book could not come apart from those hard things. If famine hadn’t driven Elimelech and Naomi to Moab…If Elimelech, Mahlon, and Chilion hadn’t died in Moab…If Ruth had born Mahlon a son before he died…If Naomi, desperate and empty, hadn’t returned to Bethlehem…The story hangs in the balance of these hard things, each of which came from the hand of the Lord. Ruth’s story reminds us that God uses hard things in our lives, that he doesn’t waste the pain we endure, and that he uses pain to bring about our good and his glory.
4. The book of Ruth models virtuous manhood and womanhood. The events of Ruth occur against the backdrop of the days of the judges – when everyone did what was right in his own eyes. It was dark time of moral chaos and spiritual decline. Yet in contrast to this darkness, the character of Boaz and the character of Ruth shine brightly. Boaz is a worthy man (Ruth 2:1). He treats all people with respect, including Ruth the Moabite outsider. He is generous and kind. He exhibits reverence for the Lord. Ruth is a worthy woman (Ruth 3:11) – described by narrator the same way Proverbs 31 describes the ideal wife (see Prov 31:10ff). She exhibits love for and loyalty to her mother-in-law. She is hard-working and industrious. Neither Ruth nor Boaz succumb to physical temptation when the story places them in a morally precarious position (see Ruth 3:6-13). Their virtue stands out, modeling for us and inspiring in us character and integrity that honor the Lord.
5. The book of Ruth shows us the radical inclusiveness of the gospel. Six times the narrator of the book of Ruth belabors Ruth’s ethnic background – she is Ruth the Moabite. According to Old Testament law, the Moabites were banned from the assembly of God’s people. Yet Ruth is named in the ancestry of Jesus (see Matt 1:5). She is herself a type – a foreshadowing of the way people from every tribe, tongue, and nation come to be included among God’s people through the work of Christ in the gospel. She anticipates the diverse people of God and the glorious inclusivity of the gospel. If Ruth the Moabite can be saved through faith, I can be, too. And you can be, too.