A Blessed End to a Beautiful Book
March 11, 2012 / No. 3610
Dear Radio Friends,
Today we come to our last message in the short but beautiful book of Ruth from the Old Testament. Just to show you how beautiful this book is, I want to begin by recapping some of the main themes of the book. The central theme of this book is the faithfulness of Jehovah to His promises, even when His people are unfaithful. The last word of this book is “David.” And that signifies that God has in mind the coming of the Savior—Jesus. God is remembering His promises.
Another theme is the providence of God. God’s sovereign control of all things for the good of those whom He loves runs through this book. From the big events like famines to small events like which field Ruth will glean in; to sinful deeds in the lives of Elimelech and Naomi to the provision of daily food for the poor—God is at work in all these things.
Still another important theme is that of the redeemer. In this book we see the Old Testament law of the kinsman/redeemer played out. This is intended to make us think ahead to Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who comes in our flesh and who has the resources to redeem us, who pays the price of redemption and brings His bride into a life of rich fellowship with Himself.
So, what a beautiful book.
Then, besides these theological themes, there are many practical applications for the Christian life from this book. In these four chapters we learn that in the afflictions of His people, God is faithful to them. We learn the importance of putting church and spiritual things before earthly goals. From the contrast of Ruth and Orpah we learn what true conversion is. From the warm reception that Bethlehem gives to Naomi and Ruth we learn about the communion of the saints. From the generosity of Boaz and the law of gleaning we learn to be sympathetic in giving to the poor. From the rich relation of Naomi and Ruth we learn about selfless love in our relationships. We learn from the godliness of Boaz and Ruth. There are lessons here about marriage, for the unmarried and for those who seek a marriage partner. And there are lessons on what a blessed marriage and family looks like.
So, as I say, this is a beautiful book, rich with instruction, with promise, and with example.
Today we come to the last verses of the book. I have entitled this message, “A Blessed End to a Beautiful Book.” I have done that because this book ends on a high note of blessing—God’s blessing in the gift of a child, God’s blessing to the family of Boaz and Ruth, God’s blessing to Naomi, God’s blessing to Old Testament Israel, and God’s blessing to all His people in every age through the promise of the coming Messiah. A blessed end to a beautiful book.
Now you remember well how this book starts. God is chastening His people with famine. Then, when Elimelech and Naomi flee to Moab, He chastens their family with death and grief. In those things, though, God is being faithful, and He is bringing a blessing into their life that they cannot see in the midst of that chastening. That blessing is here in the last verses of Ruth 4.
Last week, in verses 11 and 12, we looked at a prayer for God’s blessing on the marriage of Boaz and Ruth. Now that prayer is answered in verse 13. Boaz takes Ruth to be his wife and they have a child together. If you have your Bibles open, I want you to look at verse 13. Is that what it says? They have a child together? No, this is what it says, “when he went in unto her, the Lord gave her conception.” That is the first blessing here. From God, the blessing of a child—the blessing of conception.
The Lord gave her conception. We should stop and think about those words. This is only the second time in the entire book of Ruth that it says that the Lord Himself did something. The other is in chapter 1:6 where He visited His people and gave them bread. So, what does this teach us? It teaches that the sovereign providence of God extends to what takes place in a woman’s womb. That is easily forgotten today, even by Christians. In a day of science and family-planning and abortion, it can seem as though man is in control of what happens in the womb. But here we see that conception is not just a matter of biology, that pregnancy is never an unplanned mistake. But, rather, that the God who is the maker of the universe is also the creator and giver of life in the womb. And that means that we may not take away that life. To kill it is murder, a violation of God’s law concerning life.
And for believers, this means that where God creates this life, where God gives a child to a believing couple, that child is a blessing. Sometimes what God gives to us is a surprise. Maybe He gives you twins. Or maybe He gives you a special-needs child. Or maybe, from your point of view, an unplanned pregnancy. Those things can be a surprise to us. But it is never a mistake. From God’s point of view it is exactly as He planned it. So we should receive our children as a blessing. And we should view them that way, too. That is important as we raise what we think of as a difficult child: God has given us that child as a blessing, and we are privileged to be the instruments to raise this child. Psalm 127:3 says, “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.”
That is because when God gives children to believers, God is remembering His covenant promises. In Genesis 17:7, before God gives Isaac to Abraham, God says to him: “I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.” And when we turn to the New Testament, in Acts 2:39, we hear Peter preaching: “For the promise is unto you, and to your children.” So, when God gives us children, there is a promise that comes with them that these are His and that He will save and gather His church from the children of believers. A child born to believers is an evidence of God’s faithfulness. So, the birth of a child is worthy of celebration as a work of God.
This is what happens in Ruth. When Obed is born to Boaz and Ruth, in verse 14, we see that the women of Bethlehem celebrated with Naomi, the grandmother. And they said, “Blessed be the Lord.” The birth of a covenant child is an occasion, a time for celebration and thanksgiving to God.
Now all this raises another question. How are children a blessing? How do they become a blessing? That is answered here in Ruth 4: Children born to believers are a blessing to the family, a generational blessing. When we look at Ruth 4:14-17, we see that this new child becomes a blessing especially to his grandmother Naomi. In their celebrations, the women of Bethlehem speak not to the parents, Boaz and Ruth, but to Naomi. And they say to her: “Blessed be the Lord, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman.” Although Boaz had married Ruth and become her kinsman/redeemer, they see him as Naomi’s kinsman, the one who is raising up the family of her deceased husband. And when they speak of the baby to Naomi, they say, “He shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age.”
Then, verse 16 records for us a beautiful domestic scene. “And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it.” This indicates a closeness between Naomi and the new baby, Obed. From Naomi’s point of view, the child in her lap was an indication that God had not forgotten her. No one could bring back her dead husband and her two sons, but now she has a daughter, Ruth, that is better to her than seven sons. And now, through Ruth, a grandson to restore her name and place in Israel. God gave this child to her as her redeemer. Naomi’s grandson brings great blessing into her life.
When we think about the church as a community of God’s covenant people, we should see the same thing: the importance of our children and grandchildren for the future of God’s church. When we see this, then we will pray diligently for our children. And we will diligently bring them up in the fear of the Lord, teaching them and correcting them and being an example of godliness to them. God’s promise is that, in this way, He will save them, with us. And when we become old, they will be a blessing in our lives.
There are especially two psalms that speak of the family: Psalm 127 and Psalm 128. And both of them end on this note. In Psalm 127:5 we read: “Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them [that is, children]: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.” In other words, when your children grow and make a confession of faith with you, you will not stand alone in your opposition to the devil and the world. These children will stand with you. They will be a blessing. Then, in Psalm 128:5, 6 we read of God’s blessing on the God-fearing: “The Lord shall bless thee out of Zion: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life. Yea, thou shalt see thy children’s children, and peace upon Israel.” In other words, God will raise up the church of tomorrow from the children of today. What a blessing when one gets to see and experience that as Naomi did here.
This is indeed a blessed end to a beautiful book.
The blessing is here also in the marriage of Boaz and Ruth. As we come to the end of the book, let us think of the blessing here for Ruth. Think of where she had come from. She was in Moab, serving the gods of the Moabites. She marries an Israelite there in Moab. And he dies. She wants to go back to Judah with her mother-in-law. But Naomi turns her back and tells her, “there’s no hope for you in Judah. Your plight will be the same as mine—the plight of a poor widow.” And think of Ruth when she is first in Bethlehem—poor and gleaning among the servants of Boaz.
But how God has changed all this! In verse 13 we read, “And Boaz took Ruth.” That does not only mean that he took her home. But it means that he took her away from all her former life. She goes from rags to riches. She goes from being an empty widow to a married woman with security and rest in marriage. She goes from loneliness to the intimacy and friendship of marriage. She goes from barrenness to being a mother. And especially she is taken from her unbelief and from the gods of Moab to trust under the wings of the God of Israel. She is saved. And she is given a place and a name and property and a child in Israel—the church of God.
And as we read between the lines, we see in this not just the work of Boaz, but the work of Jehovah God. All through this book He has been working. He has brought Ruth into the church, into the fellowship of believers, into the line of Jesus Christ, through faith into Christ Himself. What a change! What a blessing for her!
Indeed, a blessed end to a beautiful book.
And then think of the blessings here for Boaz. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 18:22, “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favor of the Lord.” And in Proverbs 19:14, “A prudent wife is from the Lord.” What a blessing to Boaz to receive a wife like this from the Lord. She is everything that the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 is. We think of Ruth gleaning from morning till night in order to bring home food for Naomi when they were poor. And it reminds us of Proverbs 31:15: “She riseth also while it is night and giveth meat to her household and a portion to her maidens.” We think of Ruth’s hard work ethic and it reminds us of Proverbs 31:27, “She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.” Or we think of the kindness and virtue of Ruth that become a point of conversation in Bethlehem, so that when Boaz meets her he has heard all about her already. And it makes us think of Proverbs 31:23, “Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.” And, later in the chapter, “in her mouth are the words of kindness.”
A woman like that is a true blessing from God. What a blessing for Boaz.
And what a blessed marriage and family life they must have had together. The Bible does not give us any details of this, but it does tell us of the godliness of Boaz and Ruth going into marriage, and of the godly character of their children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. When David, their great grandson, comes along, we are told that he is a man “after God’s own heart.” Where did that come from? It came from the faith and godliness of the generations before him—just as Timothy is praised for his sincere faith that came from his mother and grandmother and from the knowledge of Scripture that he had from his childhood (see II Tim. 1:5; 3:14, 15). God’s blessing is here on the family of Boaz and Ruth.
What a blessed end to a beautiful book!
Then, too, in the concluding verses of the book we see God’s blessing through this family on the nation of Israel and on all His people in every age. God blesses His church through this family.
The last verses of this book list the genealogies of Obed and of the family of Judah. Obed, the son of Boaz, becomes the father of Jesse, who is the father of David. Those generations go all the way back to Pharez, the son of Judah.
When you read these genealogies in the Scriptures, what is the point? What value is there in them? The answer is that they show to us the faithfulness of God in remembering His covenant and the Messianic promises all through the Old Testament. You see that especially when there is sin involved in the lives of those whose names are given. God is faithful, despite the sin of His people. His salvation, and the coming of Christ, are not dependent on the work of man.
But here, in the end of Ruth, these genealogies are especially about the preservation of a name. Earlier in the chapter there is the man with no name, the kinsman who would not play the role of redeemer. Then, earlier yet in the book, you have Elimelech and Mahlon and Chilion whose names are lost because they die without children. Then you see Boaz, the redeemer, willing to raise up the name of his deceased relatives. We do not know who wrote the book of Ruth. But I like to think it was David or Solomon, who knew these stories and who realized the great faithfulness and grace of God in preserving the name of their family. In II Samuel 7:18 David says, “Who am I, O Lord God? and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?” Then he marvels that God has promised to preserve his sons on the throne forever, that is, that God has promised the eternal king, Jesus the Messiah, to come from his children. David was amazed at God’s faithfulness to his family that was raised up from nothing.
The last word in this book is the name David. What an end and what a name! If you were a believing Israelite, that name meant so much because it spoke of Christ who was to come. And in that name only is the hope of God’s people. In that name, the wonderful name of our Savior Jesus Christ, the One whose name is “Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace”—in that name is the salvation of all God’s people. So there is blessing and promise here for all God’s people in every age. God never forgets His promises but fulfills them.
The story of Ruth takes place during the time of the judges, when the nation and when Elimelech and Naomi are unfaithful to God. Despite that, from the mess that these people made, God raises up the seed in the line of Christ and with it brings blessing to His people.
And we see in this that salvation, our salvation too, is all the work of God’s sovereign, undeserved grace. Apart from God’s faithfulness, we too would be lost in our sin. But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, God has remembered His promise and given His Son, has made us alive by His Word and saved us from sin, and has brought us into the light of the kingdom of His dear Son.
Praise be to Him forever.
Let us pray.
Lord, we give thanks for Thy faithfulness, Thy grace, and Thy sovereign power that have redeemed us and saved us from our sin. We are thankful that all through the Scriptures this message comes to us poor sinners. Lord, help us to appreciate it and to show it in lives of gratitude. We pray it for Jesus’ sake, Amen.