The Prodigy of Hope

Steve Viars October 17, 2009 Ruth 4:13-22

 

- Question – how many of you like a book or a film with a happy ending?...I think most of us do…we could probably go around and talk about great endings of books you read or films you watched years ago but you still smile or even tear up when you think about the way everything turned out…

- like the scene from A Christmas Carol when Ebenezer Scrooge leans out of the window and calls down to the young boy and asked what day it is…

- and when he hears that it’s Christmas Day, and he learned all the necessary lessons in one night so he can still change the way he’s treated the people in his life…

- he goes crazy with joy and excitement and sends the boy to go off and buy the Christmas turkey that was hanging in the butcher’s store and have it delivered to the home of Bob Cratchette and Tiny Tim…

- what a happy ending…some of us have probably seen that movie 20 or 30 times and the ending still gets to you…

- or one where the plot lines come together in ways that are surprising and skillfully written…

- and you’re just amazed by a writer who can draw all of that together…

- and you scratch your head and think, I did not see that coming…but now it all makes perfect sense…

- the Chronicles of Narnia are like that, or the Lord of the Rings trilogy…many others we could name…

- but authors who can bring complicated story lines together in ways that surprise and delight you are worth their weight in gold…

- well, wouldn’t it be great if it worked that way in real life?...

- if you knew someone who could insure that the final chapter in your life would be a good one?...

- someone who could take all these fragmented stories and plots and bring them to a sane and sensible conclusion?...

- of course you know where that line of questioning is going…the Lord said to His people in Isaiah 46…

- Isaiah 46:9-10 - Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me,declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure”…

- God claims to know the end from the beginning…do you believe that this morning…

- that God possesses the wisdom, and the power, and the personal interest in you to be directing your life story to a particular end that He already knows in advance…

- where even what may appear to be random events or even meaningless trials are given for a definite and specific reason that may at this point only be known to Him?

- does your God know the end from the beginning?...

- and is He the greatest “crafter of endings” in all of human history?...

- would you agree with verses like…

- Romans 8:28 – And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

- Jeremiah 29:11 - For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

- now, if your answer is “yes”…I believe that God knows the end from the beginning, and I believe that He is directing my story to an end that is potentially for His glory and simultaneously for my good…

- the next question would be – was their practical evidence this week that you really believe that?...

1. For example, when a trial came up – did you stop and pray and ask God to help you see His divine and eternal purposes, or did you simply do “that which was right in your own eyes”…and therefore became sinfully angry, or cruel, or depressed…as if there’s no God on the throne and that trial was just random and meaningless…

2. Or perhaps someone contacted you about a serving opportunity…

- maybe you were one of the men nominated by your church to be considered to serve as a deacon…or maybe you heard about this opportunity to be trained as a faith-based mentor with one of our service agencies here in town…or whatever…

- did you carefully and prayerfully consider the end to which God may be trying to take you, and how saying yes to that serving opportunity might help you be more in sync with His eternal plan for this church, and this community, and your future…or did you just blow it off (or encourage your loved one to blow it off) because it didn’t seem right in your eyes…

- so you offered up your lame, stock, temporal excuses instead of seriously considering the eternal purposes of your God…

3.  Or you were facing a temptation…

- and the short term pleasure would be immense…sin usually is…

- but when you weighed that against the eternal plan of the One who knows the end from the beginning…you said “I will not sin in that way”…because I do not want to jeopardize what God can/will do with my life if I will remain faithful to Him…

- if it doesn’t sweeten the ending, I don’t want it to be part of my story…

 

- see, it’s one thing to say that we believe God knows the end from the beginning…it’s something else to let that theological truth give us the direction and the hope God intends…

- the passage before us this morning can definitely help us in this regard, because it screams the message that our God is capable of writing a really good ending…

- with that in mind, please open your Bible to Ruth chapter 4, page 201 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you…

- this morning we’re concluding the series we’ve been doing this fall on Finding Hope in a God Who Provides…this has been a verse by verse study of the book of Ruth…

- Now, I’m sure we have folks who are new with us today – that happens every Sunday…and you might think, great, how am I going to be able to understand this if I’m coming in at the end of the story?

- the answer is – because we were expecting you, and it’s good for all of us to get caught up on the story line because some have been thinking about things other than the book of Ruth in the past week…

- here’s the very abbreviated summary of where we are in our study…

- all of this unfolds in the days when the judges governed…summarized in … Judges 21:25 - In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

- it’s in that setting that a woman named Naomi and her husband Elimelech, and their two sons leave Bethlehem in the land of Judah to sojourn in the land of Moab because of a severe famine…while they were there, Naomi’s husband Elimelech dies…

- her two sons marry Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth…and then the two sons pass away…and neither of their wives had conceived children…

- then they hear that the famine has subsided back in Bethlehem and choose to head back to where Naomi is from…

- but at some point in the journey Naomi sits down with her daughters in law and says…you should go back to Moab, to be with your people, and your gods…the key verse is…Ruth 1:9 - May the Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband

- what’s noteworthy about that is Naomi admits that by their doing so…they will be returning to their own gods…we know that because after one of the daughters in law takes her up on the offer, Naomi tries to persuade Ruth to do the same by saying…Ruth 1:15 - Then she said, “Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.”

- the point is – Naomi was functioning as an individual like Israel was functioning as a nation… everybody does that which is right in their own eyes…

- in an amazing contrast to that lack of faithfulness, this young Moabite woman says…

Ruth 1:16 - But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back 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…Ruth believed – The God of Israel is capable of being faithful to me, I choose to be faithful to Him…

- Unfortunately, Naomi chooses the path of bitterness…and when they got to Bethlehem and women of the city asked...isn’t this Naomi…she replies… Ruth 1:20-21 - …“Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.“I went out full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?”

- things start changing in chapter 2 – but remember, 10 long years have elapsed since the death of Elimelech) Naomi’s husband)…that’s a lot of emptiness…

- but when they get back to Bethlehem, which just happens to be at the time of the barley harvest, Ruth asks permission to go glean in the fields…and God directs her to the land of a man named Boaz, who turns out to be a relative of Naomi’s deceased husband…

- and this man treats Ruth with incredible graciousness, and when she takes a large amount of grain and even some leftover lunch home to her mother-in-law, Naomi finally starts to get the point…and we’ve enjoyed watching her bitter heart melt…

- then comes the shocking events of chapter 3, where Naomi tells Ruth to go down to threshing floor that night where Boaz and his men are threshing grain, and to wait until after Boaz has laid down by the grain to sleep for the night, to uncover his feet and lie down…which in that culture and in those circumstances would have been a clear proposal of marriage…finally Naomi is going to view her circumstances through the lens of Scripture, and the provisions that are given for widows and impoverished people in that culture…and the plan worked to a tee…but Boaz explains that there is actually a kinsman who is nearer than he…but that he will put the matter before the man and the elders at the city gate that very day…and let them evaluate the situation through the lens of God’s Word, and decide what ought to be done…

- the nearer kinsman, who is never named as a sign of judgment upon his lack of obedience, functions like everyone else in that day – following Scripture in this matter would have jeopardized his own inheritance---he didn’t even try to mask his selfishness---he just came out with it…

- that cleared the way for the elders to proclaim that Boaz was functioning in a way that was godly and biblical by redeeming Naomi’s land and marrying Ruth the Moabitess…

- now, we get to read the ending, and marvel at The Prodigy of Hope…it’s time to decorate the nursery…read Ruth 4:13-22…

- so we’re talking about The Prodigy of Hope, and with the time we have remaining, let’s look for Three reasons living for God always results in a great ending.

 

I. God Can Replace Bitterness with Redemption.

- I want to encourage you to think about what this whole scene must have been like…

- think about the neighborhood gossip – there’s no question of everyone having their noses in one another’s business…well, remember, Ruth had been barren for 10 years, and now she has married a much older man…

- but the terminology that is chosen makes a clear point…

A. He enabled a barren woman to conceive.

- v. 13 – And the LORD enabled her to conceive…

- now, I realize that I am on very sensitive ground…the issue of miscarriage and infertility have touched many families in our congregation…

- and I want to be very careful and very sensitive as I try to help us see the significance of this verse…

- it’s is not true that the end of the story for every woman is that she will conceive a child, or children if that is her desire…

- it would be cruel and unbiblical to suggest anything close to that from this passage…

- but the promise is, God can provide every person who chooses to trust in Him a life of joy and opportunities to serve in ways that are meaningful and of eternal benefit and reward…

- when Kris and I were unable to have additional children after the birth of our daughter Bethany, we had the unexpected and unplanned privileges of adopting Karis and Andrew…

- The computer where I prepare these messages faces a whole series of pictures of our children and we are so thankful for the family God has given us…it was assembled a bit unconventionally,

- some of you know that through a series of very unusual circumstances, we were able to make contact with Karis’ birth parents…[develop---what transpired at graduation/open house]…

- we don’t know where all of that is going to lead…but that’s the whole point…why do we have to know when it’s so patently obvious that our God does?...there is a king in Israel---so why not just try to do that which is right in His eyes every day and enjoy reading/living the story the way our heavenly Father has written it…if He knows the end from the beginning, I don’t need to…

 

- God gave us the privilege of raising Andrew who is a special needs child…

- but God obviously has a plan for all of that…

- some of you know that if you ask me for personal prayer requests, I’ve often asked folks to pray for Drew’s salvation…we’ve tried to be very careful not to coerce a decision that he wasn’t truly ready to make…

- well, a few weeks ago, when Drew and I were fishing, he told me he was ready to become a Christian…[develop]…

- [could talk about how Drew provides the comic relief in our family – you sure kissed her, boy…]

- and there are a lot of unknowns about Drew’s future, but we don’t have to know the ending today, as long as we are sure that God does…

- for some families, instead of adoption, they choose to serve as foster parents [develop the need in our community]…and in some cases those become long tern placements, others are just temporary…but who knows how God might use that in that child’s story? [answer – God knows…]

- some families are choosing to serve as faith based mentors…

- the point is – if God truly knows the end from the beginning, we don’t have to go through life bitter…

- the end of what we know about Ruth’s life screams that message …

 

- now, please look carefully at verse 14 because it’s shocking…you would expect it to read, then the women said to Ruth…she’s the one who just carried the baby for nine months…she’s the one who just gave birth…I’m fairly certain they didn’t have epidurals back then…but the text could not be clearer…not to minimize Ruth, but to bring the story back around full circle…

B. He provided a redeemer for Naomi.

- v. 14 – Then the women said to Naomi…

1. She wasn’t empty anymore.

- v. 14 – Blessed is the LORD who has not left you without a redeemer today…

- can you smell the baby powder, or whatever oils they would have used in that day?...

- can you hear the coos, or the cries of this little baby?...

- can you imagine the flood of memories, and the flood of emotions that would have come over her?...

- and you have to believe that she thought…I am so glad I did not remain in my bitterness…and I am so glad God didn’t give up on me after I made my stubborn declaration that he had deserted me…

- and you can almost see this flashback of memories in her mind…

- of what she had said to the women in chapter 1…Don’t call me Naomi, call me Mara…

- and then Ruth’s request to glean in chapter 2…

- and then sitting at that table until late in the evening, stomach growling from years of famine…and then Ruth coming in with a huge amount of grain from just one day’s gleaning…and then that touching picture of Ruth reaching into her garments and pulling out the other half of her lunch…and saying, here mom, I saved this for you…and by the way…the name of the man whose field I gleaned in who gave us all of this was named…Boaz [ever heard of him?]…

- and then somewhere along the line, her realization that her view of God had been oh so wrong…you wonder what her repentance was like?...

- perhaps she thought of that crazy plan where she told Ruth to go down to the threshing floor that night…

- and then how she had trouble sleeping and then Ruth comes back the next morning with more grain…and a promise to go to the elders at the city gate that day…

- and then the wedding…and now, perhaps a year later…her arms are full of a redeemer, and her heart is full with gratitude to God who showers His people with hesed, covenant love…

 

2. His name would become famous in Israel.

- v. 14 – may his name become famous in Israel.

- that was an understatement…because when Matthew wanted to explain to his Jewish readers why Jesus was truly the Messiah, included in the genealogy…Matthew 1:5-6 - Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David…

- being listed in the line of Christ is about as famous as it gets…

 

3. He was her restorer of life.

- v. 15 – May he also be to you a restorer of life…

- that is a beautiful word in Scripture…used in places like…Proverbs 25:13 - Like the coolness of snow at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to those who send him; he refreshes the spirit of his masters.

 

4. He was a sustainer in her old age.

- v. 15 – a sustainer of your old age.

 

- everything that Naomi lacked, she now possessed because she trusted in a God who provides…

- now you might say – well, how did they know that this little boy was going to grow up and do all of this for Naomi?...the text actually answers that question---do you see it at the end of the verse 15?...because of the character of his mother…

 

C. These promises were based in the proven faithfulness of Ruth.

1. She loves you.

- v. 15 – who loves you

2. She is better than seven sons.

- v. 15 – is better to you than seven sons.

 

- do you remember what Naomi said to the women in chapter 1 when they asked if she was Naomi?...don’t call me Naomi, call me Mara…for the Lord has brought me back “empty”…and who was standing right next to her when she said that?...

- faithful Ruth…[who could have chosen to be very ticked off by that comment, by the way…]

 

- but Ruth was so faithful, and so loving, and so dependable…that these women could make a prediction about the character of her son based on the lifestyle of his mother…

- one commentator said it like this – “Ruth’s own love for Naomi will be bequeathed to him” (W. Randolph, p. 70)

- “More than anyone else in the history of Israel, Ruth embodies the fundamental principle of the nation’s ethic: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart” (Deuteronomy 6:5) “and your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18).  In Leviticus 19:34 Moses instructs the Israelites to love the stranger as they love themselves.  Ironically, it is this stranger from Moab who shows the Israelites what this means” (Younger, p. 483).

 

- [could hit the beauty of great in-law relations – couple of weeks ago staying at Mrs. McCollough’s house with she/Karen / mom/Kris/Ruth – care for Drew]

- [could develop – Ruth passed the test…this is what God can do when we don’t simply do what is right with our own eyes…tie it back to the three illustrations we discussed in the intro…]

 

II. God Can Replace Emptiness with Hope.

 

A. The child was laid in Naomi’s lap.

- Ruth 4:16 - Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her lap…

- in the original text there is a clear tie back to verse 5 of chapter 1…

- Ruth 1:5 - Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died, and the woman was bereft of her two children and her husband.

 

B. She became his nurse.

- v. 16 – and became his nurse.

 

- “granny became nanny” is the literal translation of that phrase…and can’t you picture this grandmother loving the fire out of this little baby?...

- and then the neighbor women speak up again…

 

C. The neighbor women rejoiced that a son had been born to Naomi.

- Ruth 4:17 - The neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi!” So they named him Obed.

- now, you might say – I don’t like the fact that they didn’t say…a son has been born to Ruth…

- you’ll have to take that up with these women…

- but that is the clear emphasis of this text…

- in fact, we don’t know for sure why he was given this name because the passage doesn’t explain it…but we know the word means “servant”…but the three consonants that make up his name are actually all found in the statement – a son has been to Naomi…so that may have been the way they just shortened the phrase so that emphasis was always present…

- look what God has done for Naomi…

- and just like a book where the ending solves all the remaining issues…this little boy was to grow up and perpetuate the family name, meaning that Naomi’s needs would be met for the rest of her life…

- how could two poor widows possibly get to the place of enjoying such security and abundance?...by finding their hope in a God who provides…

 

- if that was the end of the story, it would certainly be enough…but God uses this event to point to a much greater redeemer, and a much greater provision…

- see God had, and has an eternal plan for this nation…and through the offspring of Naomi’s and Ruth’s redeemer would come the Messiah of Israel…proving that…

III. God Can Replace Waywardness with Salvation.

- Ruth 4:21-22 - and to Salmon was born Boaz, and to Boaz, Obed,and to Obed was born Jesse, and to Jesse, David.

- yes, this was a nation of people who were doing that which was right in their own eyes…

- and God had even reason in the world to judge them completely and absolutely forever…but He had made promises to them, some of which were unconditional…

- and God is a God of hesed, or faithfulness…who is fiercely loyal to His covenant…

- and you have to wonder as our triune God looked down on the events of Ruth 4, and marveled as their plan came together…if they were also thinking about another plan, laid before the foundation of the world…

- you remember it, don’t you?...

- Luke 2:4-7 - Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David,in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

- it’s almost as if the Lord knows the end from the beginning….don’t you love it when a plan comes together…

- and that little one would grow up to be an even better kinsman redeemer than Boaz, or than Obed…because this redeemer would die for the sins of man once and for all…

 

- and you might say – but didn’t the nation of Israel reject Christ as their redeemer?...yes, which is why Paul explained that the church has been grafted in and given the opportunity to believe on Christ as our Redeemer and Savior…

- but make no mistake about it – God is a God of hesed…He is fiercely loyal to the covenant He has made, and He knows the end from the beginning…

- that is why it is so significant in Romans 11 that Paul explains… Romans 11:26-27 - and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “The deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.  This is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins.”

 

- and when Paul considers God’s eternal plan for both Israel and the church, based on the work of the Redeemer explained throughout the book of Romans, the logical conclusion is,

Romans 11:33-36 - Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again?For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

 

- the ultimate prodigy of hope is the Lord Jesus Christ, and for all those who have trusted Him as Savior and Lord, the end of the story is very, very good…

 

- what are the take aways?

 

1. If you’ve not yet trusted Christ as Savior, what more would it take?...

- the story of Ruth proves that God is sovereign over the affairs of men…

- He also has an eternal plan for those who reject the redemption of His Son…

- and it is as horrible as the plan He has for those who are redeemed is blessed…

- non-Christian friend – today is a test for you – choose wisely

 

2. Christian friend…is there evidence that you are living in a way that demonstrates that you are convinced that God knows the end from the beginning…and you want to be in the center of that plan…

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video