Ruth 4:14: “Then the women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel!’”
The fourth chapter of Ruth is the final and the climactic chapter of the book. Here the purposes of God become clear, not only for the immediate story but for the story of Scripture.
The message of the book of Ruth is of God’s faithful love, leading to restoration and blessing – both physical and spiritual. What God does in the lives of Ruth and Naomi – two leading characters of the story – he will do on a broader scale. This we know because of the way the author subtly hints at this throughout the opening chapter. He does this by his use of an Old Testament word translated in various ways as: ‘returning’, ‘turning back’, ‘restoring’, ‘repenting’. The God of covenant love brings restoration where there has been sin and rebellion.
Sinclair Ferguson notes what this means for us as he writes:
“… [T]his book is a cameo portrait of the gospel and of the grace of God. God, as Jeremiah realized, is a potter; he can destroy what is marred by sin. But he can also remake what has been spoiled [cf. Jeremiah 18:1-6]. He works all things (yes, all things) together for the good of those who love him, whatever their sins may be. He brings his purpose to fruition. As we explore the hesed [lovingkindness] of God in this Old Testament book, this is precisely what we have seen: God working everything together for good in a fallen world, for those who love him, however faintly and sometimes waywardly.’
We don’t mean to imply that we will always understand what God is doing in our lives, or even that we can make sense of what is happening. But we are saying God is at work, and often in mysterious ways. With great imagery, Ferguson writes:
“In the original creation, God did not need to ‘work’ everything together for good. He simply spoke everything into existence, and it was very good. But in a fallen world God must do more than speak. It is as though God has to roll his sleeves up and work his good purposes into the material of a fallen creation against its innate tendency. His ultimate purpose is to magnify his glory; the central means by which he will do it is by creating in his people nothing less than the image of his Son in order that he might be the firstborn of a whole family that shares a family likeness to the elder brother (Rom. 8:29).’
And then, with rich insight and powerful admonishment, Ferguson declares:
“We must never limit the purposes of God, as though he were doing only one thing at a time in only one person and one place at a time – here and now in me! Sometimes we can be deeply puzzled by the circumstances of our lives: what is God doing? Too frequently we focus attention on ourselves as though the answer lay within our individual lives – as if we were the central key to interpreting the plan of the God of the entire universe!
“God is intimately aware of us and deeply concerned for our welfare. But his providential purposes, which include me, do not center on me, as though what he is doing in me could be isolated from everything else he is doing! No, God’s purposes criss-cross and zigzag, and cross-fertilize one believer’s life with that of an unbeliever, or one believer’s experience with another believer. He is always simultaneously and contemporaneously doing several things in several lives.”
There is a beauty to God’s providence, although it is often beyond the powers of the naked eye to see until we wear biblically-crafted lenses in the need to learn to walk not by sight but by faith. We see this providence at work in Naomi’s little family circle. This Lord’s Day Chad will conclude this wonderful little book of Ruth. You must come to see the mosaic of grace our promise-keeping God works in the lives of Naomi and Ruth and Boaz. And by extension, the hope that this promise-keeping God can provide in our lives.
Join us this week as we consider ‘mission accomplished’ in Ruth 4. We give thanks to God for Chad’s teaching on the book of Ruth; thank you Chad for being faithful to the Word of the Lord. I encourage you to pray for our service this week as we prepare to worship God. Have you invited someone to come along with you lately? Why not reach out and invite that person this week to join you as we learn of the God who does abundantly more than we could ask or imagine?
Grace to you,