Last Sunday, our church began an evening service, for which I am grateful and excited. Our Senior Pastor will maintain preaching in the morning on the Lord’s Day, and I will be preaching during the evening. The difference between the two services in the sermon, is that the evening is partly an in-depth Bible study. We grab a detail in the text and chase it throughout the rest of God’s revelation.
This can be a great deal of fun, and it shows the scope and beauty of God’s inspired Scriptures. One problem with this approach is that there is quite a bit of information in a small amount of time. For this reason, I have been asked by a few members that attended our first evening service, for a detailed note sheet with the Scriptures referenced, so that they can follow these through at home. What a great idea! We have begun in Ruth, and will take about 7 weeks to finish the four chapter book.
Below you will find an abridged version of my sermon, minus the application section. I have decided to post it here for those church members who do use the “interwebs.” You can read Ruth 1:1-5 here. I know some people would like the application, so here it is: Elimelech means “God is my King” but it is evident from these verses that God is not his king, but his own stomach is. Elimelech did what was right in his own eyes, rather than trusting the Word of God. If we proclaim Elimelech from our mouths, that God is our King, then we must live like it and not wander off into the land of cursed Moab. Stay with the Lord of Life and live, or abandon His Word and perish. Trust King Jesus and what He has said He will do.
The first time someone did “what was right in his own eyes” it was a her. Eve did what she thought was right in her own eyes and took the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Genesis 3:4-6.
The context, then, for the book of Ruth is the depravity of Israel exemplified in every person disobeying God. Because of Israel’s disobedience in the covenant of grace, God has sent a famine upon them. The covenant bears blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience, and one of the curses is famine, Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28.
Also, there is not a human king in Israel at this time, and as we will soon find out in the book of Ruth, Ruth is the great grandmother of David. We also should know that David is from the tribe of Judah, however, the patriarch Judah had sinned grievously, Genesis 38, and his descendants are not considered full members of Israel, Deuteronomy 23:2 (check a more literal translation like the KJV, or NKJV).
We will see that David is the tenth generation from Judah, Matthew 1:3-6, and therefore is considered a full member of Israel and thereby can be considered eligible for the throne, because the curse of illegitimacy has been lifted.
A look at the details.
Bethlehem (Hebrew for House of Bread), up to this point, has been a place of sin and death. We think of King David and Jesus and Christmas, but at this time in history all Israel knew was covenant unfaithfulness and death.
Genesis 35 shows us that the covenant bride, Rachel, dies there. Simeon, Jacob’s firstborn, commits sexual sin with Jacob’s concubine. Judges 17 shows an apostate Levitical priest, a grandson of Moses. And Judges 19 shows us that Bethlehem is a symbol for the pagan/heathen world. The House of Bread is a place of famine. A place without physical bread and without the Bread from heaven, the Word of God.
Judah is a royal tribe, Genesis 49:8.
Moab is in the wilderness, outside the covenant, and pagan. The Moabites have consistently been enemies of God’s people, and therefore enemies of God. Moabites have their beginnings in incest, Genesis 19:30-38. Moab also hired Balaam to curse Israel as they wandered in the wilderness, Numbers 22-24. Moab also seduced Israel into worshiping idols and to marry foreign women, Numbers 25. We also see that Moab was an oppressor of Israel in Judges 3 as King Eglon reigned over them.
Names are not always important in Scripture, but most of the time they are, so what do the names of our historical characters mean?
Elimelech means “God is my King” This is ironic, because we realize that God is not his King, but rather his stomach is.
Naomi means “Pleasant”
Mahlon means “Weak, Sickly”
Chilion means “Pining Away”
Orpah means “Hardened”
Ruth means “Beautiful”
The main point of theses five verses is that covenant unfaithfulness leads to curses from the Covenant Lord. The world, Moab, those outside the covenant, do not have it better than the covenant family, even when we are undergoing famine. If we leave the covenant for the depravity of the world, we will die. If we join ourselves to the ways of pagans, like Elimelch, Mahlon, and Chilion, we will die. If we turn back to God in repentance, as Ruth will, God will do as He promised–He will save us.