Do you long for children? I knew some friends from the church I used to go to – a Christian couple who had been waiting to conceive a child in many years. They had been waiting for a long time for a miracle to happen in their family. It was very painful to them after so many years to be childless. The couple asked me to pray for their family years ago so that the wife would find favour in God’s eye and conceive a child. Because both of them were a bit overweight, they would do lots of strict diets and lots of exercise to keep themselves fit and healthy. They have spent lots of money and they did everything they could do and trying everything to increase their chance to have babies. But nothing happened. They had been longing for children so much that up to a point that they have adopted a cute little girl from Fiji as their daughter so that they could become parents. And after many years of marriage, finally last year the Lord had heard the prayers and the wife could give birth to a beautiful baby boy. I remember seeing the joy of the parents in tears showing the photos of their newborn on Facebook. Since that day every month or so, I would see their Facebook wall showing up with baby photos and thankfulness to God. As a parent, I have also received the blessing of children from God, and it is a great joy to receive a child. Children are gifts from God. But compares to the Christian couple, Naomi’s chance to have a descendant is even slimmer, with nearly zero percent chance to have an heir. But out of the misfortune and hardship in Naomi and Ruth’s life throughout the story, now in Chapter 4 of the Book of Ruth, God has finally sent the widows a perfect gift.
1) Naomi is blessed with a child
After Boaz and Ruth are married, God blessed them with a son. That means Elimelek’s family has a descendent now to be an heir, and their family’s future is secured.
To many people, the book of Ruth maybe just a cute story about a poor girl who was fortunate to marry a rich man. But in reality, the events recorded in Ruth were part of God’s preparations for the births of King David and Jesus, the promised Messiah. Just as Ruth was unaware of this larger purpose in her life, we will not know the full propose and importance of our lives in God’s Kingdom until we can look back from the perspective of eternity.
As the kinsman-redeemer, Boaz not only takes Ruth as a wife, but he also fulfils the Mosaic Law by producing a son to carry on Elimelek’s family line. And his son with Ruth, Obed, is not just a normal healthy baby. He is a special son who would preserve the royal line from which not only the great king of Israel, David, would descend through. God’s promise to Abraham to bless humankind will carry on from this little boy. As we can see in the genealogy of Jesus in the Book of Matthew:
“Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,” (Matthew 1:5-6)
That makes Boaz the great grandfather, and Ruth, the great grandmother of King David, but most importantly, through King David’s royal bloodline would descend the greatest king of Israel, the saviour of the world – Jesus of Nazareth.
God’s promise of salvation is planned a long time ago, and it is fulfilled through the righteous acts of love of Ruth to her mother-in-law Naomi, and the noble act of redemption through Boaz the Kinsman-Redeemer. Both Ruth and Boaz’s role in God’s plan were so little. But yet, if Ruth did not faithfully follow Naomi to Bethlehem and endure the hardship; Or, if Boaz did not marry Ruth because of her ethnicity as a Moabite or her humble status in the society; King David won’t be born, and Jesus’ bloodline would be broken. Even Ruth and Boaz’s story was so small in the grand scale of God’s plan in human history. But the LORD uses this little love story of a righteous man and a virtuous woman to purpose his plan of salvation to all humankind.
God is good for Naomi, and He has a great plan for her long time ago, he planned to give Naomi a son and later a dynasty long time ago in his mercy and kindness. Sometimes, we need to wait for some time and endure some hardship before obtaining the blessings that come with it. When we are suffering and having a bad time, we need to learn to put our trust in Christ and endure the hardship. It is the moment of the test in suffering that we might grow in our character and faith toward God.
Apostle James wrote in his letter, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)
God’s promise and purpose for us are always good. So let us perseveres in the hardship of life, and patiently wait for Christ’s return, and wait for his promise of eternal life like Naomi has been long waited patiently for God’s blessing and finally receive her joy of a baby boy.
2) A good daughter-in-law is better than seven sons
After Obed is born, all those women who were astonished by Naomi’s misfortune back in Chapter 1 now congratulate her, saying, “Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! 15 He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.” (Ruth 4:14-15)
God brought great blessings out of Naomi’s tragedy, even greater than having seven sons. Throughout her tough times, Naomi continued to trust God. And God, in his time, blessed her greatly. Even in our sorrow and calamity, God can bring great blessings. Instead of asking, “How can God allow this to happen to me?” We should put our trust on Him who is mighty. Our Lord and God will be with you in the hard times throughout your life.
Also, in this story, we can see that Ruth is ultimately the person responsible for giving birth to Obed. Ruth the Moabite has gone from being a foreigner to be lower than a migrant worker, to be a lady-in-waiting, to be a wife. God, who had closed her womb while married to Mahlon, now opened her womb to give Boaz a son. In this sense, Ruth is the hero of the story; she was responsible for bringing order out of chaos. Without her willingness to love Naomi, without her willingness to abandon her homeland, without her willingness to beg publicly in Bethlehem, without her willingness to approach Boaz, there would be no celebration. Ruth gives God’s Kingdom of Israel much more than a fertile womb. Her life challenges the corrupt values of a sick culture in the time of Judges. In Ruth’s world in the Ancient Near East, women are more expendable than men (Judges 19:24; 21:12, 23), yet Ruth demonstrated unconditional love for Naomi and treated her better than many people who have sons and daughters. Ruth proves that a foreign widow who lived in poverty can be of far more value to Israel than seven of its finest sons.
The story of Ruth reminds us of God’s character toward women, the poor, and the weak, and the Christian’s view toward them is different from many sexist cultures in this world today. In God’s eyes, God does not discriminate against who we are, no matter if you come from different countries, born from different ethnicity, different gender, or poverty. What God values is your inner character, your righteous acts of compassion, your faithfulness to Him, your kindness and your unconditional love toward other peoples in your life. We are all created under God’s image. And Ruth is an example of that goodness from God’s character displayed at work. A poor foreign widow who is faithful to God and her mother Naomi is far better than having seven sons. If we, the church behave and love one another like Ruth, God will also send us our guardian-redeemer – Jesus to redeem us to Himself – just Boaz redeemed Ruth to be his bride. We, the church, will be the bride for Christ who receives the blessing from God.
When I was writing this sermon, I learnt from the news that the Australian government had just repealed the Medevac law that allows refugees in Nauru and Papua New Guinea to be transferred to Australia for medical reasons, including their accompanying family. I was wondering how many people like Ruth would be stranded in Nauru and the PNG right now without proper medical treatment. Are we who live in this blessed country of Australia being kind to those refugees in need like Boaz did to Ruth? That is something that we should reflect on and think about as followers of Christ.
3) God the invisible puppet master
Throughout the story, we only hear God from the speech of characters, but God’s action was not mentioned. In this book, God is at work behind the scenes to work all things together for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). His hand is invisible, yet we can see his goodness in the story of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz that concludes happily ever after. God had been hidden behind as an invisible puppet master to bring all things under his plan. One of the themes of Scripture reflected in this story is that God desires to move his children from a sense of insecurity and fear to a sense of peace and contentment. Naomi began with emptiness in chapter one, and she went from the security of this life being filled to a sense of having a purpose in this life. In the end, she knew that there had been a plan according to which everything worked together for good. The original readers of this story were able to stand even further back and evaluate the circumstances of her life because they knew even more – that God’s plan was unfolding beyond Naomi’s lifetime. God took her through emptiness and brought about the line of David. As the modern readers of the 21st Century, the Canon of the Bible is completed, and we can see an even bigger picture of God’s ultimate plan is behind the story of Ruth. We can stand back with greater distance than the original readers of Ruth in the Old Testament period and know that there is something more, something far greater to come, – from the line of David through the womb of Ruth would come the Messiah – Jesus of Nazareth.
In His goodness and faithfulness, God’s blessing is not just for Naomi and Ruth, but for all humankind that we are will be all blessed that one day, 2000 years ago, God has sent his own Son, Jesus Christ to this world to die for our sins. We will be forgiven in the coming judgment of God because of this blessed child. Blessed are those who faithfully wait for Christ’s return in the Last Day. Like Naomi, who has joyfully received a child Obed from God as a gift, who is the father of Jesse, the father of King David.
We have also been given a child from heaven — an eternal king who brought salvation to this world. In the coming Christmas, let us reflect upon these stories. Let us be thankful to God that he has sent a Saviour to us. Let us rejoice in the Lord for the Christmas Child born into this world, so that many children from around the world will be called into his Kingdom. Let us rejoice like Naomi, who is joyful and thankful to God for what He has done. What a marvellous plan that God had prepared for us.
Let us all praise the Lord’s holy name with thanksgiving.