Sermon Follow Up- Week 48, 2021
One of the darkest moments in the Bible tells us whether or not God will abandon his people and leave the world and all who are in it to destroy themselves. It's at the beginning of Ruth where things are as bad as they've ever been— sin, famine, grief, and emptiness. And it's here where God addresses the spiritual starvation of his people with a promise of the long-expected Jesus.
“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
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, 5 and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.” (Judges 21:25-Ruth 1:5 ESV)
The purpose of Ruth is to prove God’s faithfulness to his chosen people as he fills Naomi’s, Israel’s, and our emptiness with the hope of the long-expected Jesus.
SUBPOINTS AND REFLECTION QUESTIONS
1. The Worst Kind of Famine
Ruth 1:1, "In the days when the judges ruled..."
Judges 21:25, "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes."
This intersection between Judges and Ruth is one of the most hopeless places in the Bible. Why? Because the end of Judges is absolutely horrific. The whole point of the book of Judges is to show that God’s people are stuck…they’re stuck in this vicious cycle of sin and enslavement and deliverance by these men and women called judges. It’s actually less of a cycle and more of a downward spiral. God becomes an accessory to his people. They forget him. They forget that they were slaves in Egypt and that God has rescued them and claimed them. He established a covenant with them as a ruler would with his subjects and he led them out of slavery and into the Promised Land where he was going to dwell with them. But four of the last 5 chapters of Judges rehearse this statement “There was no king in Israel." That doesn’t mean they just needed a king to solve their problems, it meant that God was no longer acting as their King. it means that they had turned from him and this is a spiritual desert where there was no king in sight…
The last 5 chapters of Judges show us what kind of Israel in which Ruth will take place— an Israel described in terms of idolatry (ch 17-18), rape (ch 19), civil war (ch 20), and abduction (ch 21).
Is this how we’re starting Advent? What about light coming into the world and Jesus and Mary and Joseph? I’ll admit that this is a hard step to take because Christmas can be and is a happy time. But the celebration actually has to do with how awful things were before Jesus came. By starting here in Judges we get to see what God chose to do with the hopelessness and with our deep need. It's a hard fight to see why Jesus needed to come in the first place... when the Christmas music starts playing and the air gets nice and crisp and we have a thanksgiving meal as a family or as friends- it just seems like Jesus is a happy addition to the fun. It's our brokenness without God where God inserted a baby boy who would become our Savior, and that’s what the bleakness of Judges is for. Judges is a snapshot of life in a world that hates God. It might have a beautiful shell even, but inside, it is chaotic, violent, careless, and starving to death. And the book screams “if God doesn’t turn things around, then it’s all a wash.” Again, that’s how things were when Jesus came, and when he did, he wasn’t just this pleasant surprise. He was a BURST of white light into a world that was full of death and darkness. A world lost in sin and bound for the wrath of God. He’s not just a treat that sweetens the season, he is the light of the world who opens our eyes to his glory and who shows us what God is like. “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” (John 12:46 ESV).
With the dark backdrop of Judges, the foreground is even darker. Elimilech's family is experiencing Israel's famine and they flee to the nation of Moab where Elimelech and his two sons die leaving Naomi destitute. He has nothing, Israel is starving, and thoe who provided for her and her two daughters in law, Ruth and Orpah, have died. It seems as if all is lost for this family, the nation, and the world.
- How is it significant that Jesus entered a world that was utterly broken and without hope?
- Has there been a time for you where you experienced a lack of hope that felt like a sort of spiritual starvation?
- What are some specific ways you can be reassured of God's commitment to you during future moments that may feel as hopeless as Ruth 1:1-5?
The question then is raised…what kind of God is he proven to be in Ruth? What kind of God is he not just for Israel and Naomi, but for me right now? Is he one who is weakened when the world seems upside down. When you’re anxious to your core, is he trembling too? When you feel mentally or physically incapacitated, is he also? When you feel like you’re at the breaking point, is he ready to break? Has he given up? This is a moment where we can gladly say, God is not like us. He is not limited, he is not trembling, he is not incapacitated by the difficulties. How do we know? Well. Does he leave Israel without a king, Naomi without hope, and us starving for a Savior? Oh no… he is a God who is steadily making promises to his people, steadily keeping our hope alive—and all of those promises and all of that hope is yes, amen, and fulfilled in Jesus.
2. Satisfying Hope
Most of this story after chapter 1 takes place in the town of Bethlehem. And in this town God is going to prove that he hasn’t abandoned his rescue mission even though all seems lost. It’s in this town and in this story where God will take Israel and give it its first upturn in hope by bringing them a king, king David who is Ruth’s great-grandson. And David will be a man after God’s own heart rather than these people who continually turn their back on God. The road that leads us to David is meant to lead us further to the King who would sit on David's throne. The one whom Micah foretells would come from this little place of Bethlehem Ephrathah.
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.
Therefore [God] shall give [Judah] up until the time
when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD,
in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth.
And he shall be their peace.” (Micah 5:2-5 ESV).
Christmas is about a world starving for a Savior and how a gracious and merciful God fills our bellies with exactly what we hope for. It's about longing and expectation and silence that God chooses to meet by coming to us. It's a bright display of endearment and love as God gives the world his own Son.
Let the story of Ruth also remind you that God does not abandon ship. He will not let his plans fall to anyone or anything. Ruth is what I like to call a bottleneck in the Bible. When the situation is so dire and the hope is so slim that there’s one option: God has to do something in his might and in his mercy or else there’s no such thing as salvation and rescue for us.
- Hope is an expectation that something truly will happen. What are some fears or uncertainties you have about present situations or the future that you might be able to surrender to God and contrast with specific promises?
- Where might you be able to ask God to intervene in your life and satisfy you with real hope that God will work it out for your good (Rom. 8:28)?
- Whether you know it or not, you need hope.
Some might be well aware that they feel discouraged and lack hope. But others might not know that their life in a moment could end up in a place where they need to be kept afloat with something that will bring them hope. We can only ride good circumstances, a good family, and a steady job for so long without being let down. Even the safest, securest life can prove that our hope for all to be well with us is not meant to stand on anything except God alone. "For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God." (Psalm 62:5-7 ESV)
- God is a God of Hope
There are times where you might wonder how committed God is to you as his child or to us as his church. You might wonder whether he has a firm grasp on the situation you’re in. Whether he sees your plight. Whether he knows what you’re walking through. Romans 15 says “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” He is not the God of letdowns or empty promises. He is the God of waiting but not of endless waiting. He is not the God of pinky-swear agreements. Instead, he is the God of real and resolute hope based on real and resolute commitments to save and dwell with us—He graciously brings hope where there is none because he is the God of hope.
- Judges 17:1-13; Judges 18:1-31; Judges 19:1-30; Judges 20:1-48; Judges 21:25
- Ruth 1:1-22
- Luke 1:26-38, 2:1-21
- Micah 5:2
- Matthew 1:1-17
Here is a basic overview of the book of Ruth to help in understanding the flow and story of the entire srtory.