Ruth 1: 16-17
Trinity 6, 2023
16 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. 17 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.”
OPENING PRAYER: O most gracious heavenly Father, when You act in our lives in ways we do not understand, direct us again, we pray, to our Holy Baptism. There You bound Yourself to us in forgiveness and love through the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, so that like Naomi and Ruth, we will see Your Deliverance in Your time. Amen.
In which book of the Bible might you find such names as Elimelech, Orpah, Mahlon, and Chilion? Let me start making it easier for you. In which book of the Bible do we first hear of King David’s grandfather, Obed? Now let me make it really easy for you. In which book of the Bible do we hear the names Naomi and Boaz?
As you all have guessed by now, all these names appear in the book of Ruth. The book of Ruth is the story of the marriage of Ruth to the godly man Boaz. Yet, it is not a love story. The content would not fit the plot of a sultry novel so prevalent today. As a matter of fact, this story would incite the anger and rage of those advocating women’s rights today. Rather, the book of Ruth beautifully illustrates our Savior’s enduring love for you, the sinner.
You see, placed as it is between the book of Judges and the books of Samuel, it plays an important part in God’s plan for the salvation of the whole sinful human race. Yet, it is interesting that this book of the Bible is not named for Naomi or Boaz or Obed, all from the tribes of Israel. It is rather named after a woman who came from the heathen area of Moab. This morning, we then consider:
A STORY ABOUT CHRIST AND HIS LOVE FOR YOU.
Let me provide you with the “Readers Digest” version of Ruth. The rains had failed in Judah and a sever famine came upon the area. A certain family from the tribe of Judah composed of Elimelech, Naomi, and their two children, decide to emigrate to a heathen county beyond the Jordan river to the east of the Dead Sea; the land of Moab. Here they lived in peace for a while.
But tragedy now disturbed this peaceful situation. Elimelech, the husband of Naomi and the father of Mahon and Chilion died. This left Naomi a widow and her two sons without a father from whom to gain an inheritance. In the course of time, Naomi’s two sons married Moabite girls. The book of Ruth tells us that they all lived together in Moab for another 10 years when another tragedy struck; both of the sons died leaving Naomi, Ruth and Orpah, Naomi’s other daughter-in-law, without any men in the family to support them.
Therefore, Naomi’s thoughts turned toward the home of her youth in Judah. She had heard that the LORD had “Visited His people and given them food.” She decided to return to the land of her fathers. Her two daughters-in-law accompanied her part of the way. Think about this…three widows returning to the land of Judah. But on the boarder of Moab, Naomi begged Orpah and Ruth to return to their own land and to stay with their own people. At this point, we are told that Orpah kissed her mother-in-law and went back, but Ruth clung to Naomi. It is here that Ruth, the woman with a heathen background, makes the beautiful confession of affection and love for her mother-in-law that makes this story famous and which serves as the words of our text.
Naomi and Ruth now arrive in Bethlehem of Judah about the time of the harvest, and Ruth went into the fields to glean for their support. The field in which she gleaned belonged to a wealthy man by the name of Boaz, a relative of Elimelech. Boaz treated her kindly. Upon finding out that Ruth was a relative by marriage and having surrendered his rights according to the Law of Moses, Boaz married Ruth before the elders of the city. The son born to them was Obed, the father of Jesse and the grandfather of David. King David, of course, is the royal ancestor of Jesus.
Now, if you simply sit down and read through the book of Ruth it might take you 10 minutes. But let’s take some time to note what is really going on. Naomi and Elimelech and their two sons left Judah as Israelites. They lived in Moab as Children of Israel without taking on the gods of Moab. They were alone in the midst of a heathen world.
In spite of this, Naomi returned to Judah still faithful to the LORD and brought Ruth with her as a converted believer in the true God. It took courage to do this surrounded by the pressures and ridicule of the heathen people around them. Elimelech and Naomi were not ashamed nor afraid to confess their faith in the LORD whose promises pointed to Christ Crucified.
You and I live in a world that despises the Word of God which points men to the Cross of Christ. Even among those who call themselves “Christian” we see compromise in attempting to please the world so that ultimately there is no observable and substantial difference between the world and the Church of Christ. Therefore, it takes courage to speak clearly the Word which God has given us in the Bible.
But this is where the rubber hits the road. Do you have the courage to speak God’s Word clearly to those with whom you come in contact?
- It means pointing out the sin in their lives so that they may repent.
- It means telling people that living together apart from the bonds of holy matrimony is sin.
- It means telling people that homosexuality is against the ordinance which God intended.
- It means telling people that a refusal to baptize their children is a sin against the LORD and then a sin against that little child for whom Christ died.
- It means telling people that coming to the LORD’s table means that one receives the true Body and Blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins.
- It means telling people that a neglect of this Sacrament slights the gift which our Lord has given us. That takes courage.
What about your own faith?
- Do you have the courage to take God at His Word without subjecting Word and Sacrament to your human reason and logic?
- Are you ready to endure the hardship that might and will come when you clearly confess Christ and all His teachings and doctrines before this world?
- Have you always done so in the past? As we consider the courage of Elimelech and Naomi, must we not feel a twinge of conscience? Is it not time for us to repent of how we have remained silent among the heathen of our life?
As I said earlier, the story of Ruth would not make fodder for a very racy novel. But it is really the story of Christ. Out of apparently insignificant events in the life of Naomi and Ruth came the Kingdom of God, embracing all nations whose ruler is the son of Obed, Jesse, and David. God had a purpose in uniting the heathen Ruth with the Israelite Boaz for you. The One born from their union would be a blessing not only to the Children of Israel, but to you and me and all Gentiles.
Interestingly, a Gentile condemned Jesus to the cross and commanded Him to be crucified, but in turn, Jesus commanded that the message of the Gospel be preached to all nations, all Gentiles. You see, this is not merely a story about the marriage between Ruth and Boaz; and it is not a story written to excite the senses. It is a story about Christ and His love for you; it is the story of your forgiveness.
Because Ruth boldly confessed her faith in the LORD and commitment to her family, we inherit the blessings of the words which serve as the basis of our devotion today: “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” That blessing is Jesus. He confessed the truth of God’s Word even up to his last breath on the cross: “It is finished.” Our Savior’s commitment was not to His own flesh, but to His family, you and me who have been adopted into the family of God through the institution of Holy Baptism in which you and I have been made the sons and daughters, the sons-in-law, the daughters-in-law, indeed the bride of Christ.
Just as Ruth had no legal standing among the Children of Israel by birth, you and I by birth, or by nature, have no legal standing before God. Left to herself, Ruth would have remained a foreigner. Yet, Christ marries us in Holy Baptism and gives us His Name and all the eternal blessings that come with that Baptism. As the apostle Paul says, “You are no longer foreigners or strangers but fellow citizens with the believers and members of God’s family (Ephesians 2:19).” As His bride, you are under His protection, under His care, under His grace and the heir of all that belongs to Him. Keep your eyes on the prize.
I would hope that none of us would deny that we have fallen short in our confession of Christ with the sins we have committed in our lives even this past week. Your sins of gossip, your refusal to forgive the hurts and insults against you, your selfishness manifested in lust and greed, quarreling and anger, your refusal to submit your entire life under the care of God and thank and praise Him in every situation have in turn angered the Holy Spirit and caused Him grief.
Yet, like Ruth, who at the bidding of Naomi laid at the feet of Boaz to be “redeemed,” that is, claimed as his bride, so our Savior invites you to lay at His feet today once again, to be redeemed through His vow given on the cross and signed with His very own blood. Bring those sins that burden your conscience this day to the Table He has set with His very Body and Blood for you the sinner. Jesus has redeemed you. Go in peace. Amen.