The Covenant-Keeping God
There is no doubt that the book of Ruth contains one of the great romantic stories in all human literature. But as we have seen, those words spoken to Naomi do not express human devotion alone. At their heart lies Ruth’s confession that she has begun to experience God’s covenant grace: ‘Your people shall be my people, and your God my God’ is the reason she says, ‘Where you go I will go…’
Thus, the author of Ruth establishes early on that this book is not merely about human relationships but about the great covenant-making and covenant-keeping Lord God and the way in which he brings us to faith. We are given a hint of this already in Ruth 1. Last week, Chad pointed out that although Naomi left Bethlehem ‘full’ and has now come back ‘empty’, she returned to the Promised Land with Ruth soon after the Lord visited his people and just as the harvest was beginning.
Sinclair Ferguson builds tension for us as he reminds us that Naomi has prayed for Ruth, and for the Lord’s blessings upon her life. Now we are invited to be on the look-out for the way God will respond to that prayer, perhaps in Ruth 2. He writes, ‘We are encouraged to ask: If God is the hearer and the answerer of prayer, if he keeps his covenant promises, will the prayer in Ruth 1:8-9 be answered? Will the Lord open his hand to satisfy the needs of these women?’
Furthermore, writes Ferguson, ‘just as the opening chapter begins with a hint of how the first part of the drama will develop, the second chapter does the same.’ In the opening verse we are told of a man named Boaz. Could this be the answer to Naomi’s prayer? The writer wants us to keep our eyes on Boaz because it may be that he is God’s answer to Naomi’s prayer – possibly in ways you would not expect, and certainly in ways these women would never expect. After all, the Old Testament God is the New Testament God who is ‘able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think’ (Ephesians 3:20).
Why are we told this? Because, as Ferguson notes, this story proceeds at two different levels: ‘In order to give us a sense of how God effects his providential purposes Bible narratives sometimes use the literary equivalent of a movie maker’s ‘split-screen’ technique.’ Thus, the writer does with words what modern technology does visually – splitting the screen – so that we have two different perspectives simultaneously or that we can compare two different events and relate them to each other. Ferguson helpfully reminds us:
‘When the split screen technique is used, we are being encouraged to read the narrative from two different points of view: the human and the divine, the ‘accidents’ of history and the activity of God’s sovereignty.’ Thus, one point of view is that of the participants in the drama. They have little or no knowledge of what God is doing in and through their lives. They cannot see the end from the beginning. They may know that God is sovereign, but they have no idea how he will demonstrate his sovereignty. That is the position we ordinarily occupy in our own lives. We do not have direct access to the mind of God to know the details of his plans and purposes.’
Hence, the writer underlines that while the presence of God is real to Naomi, Ruth and Boaz, his purpose remain hidden. This, too, is true for us. When viewed from our vantage point life contains much mystery and much of what we don’t understand. Yet the narrator underscores for us, in his storytelling, that this God can be trusted because he is the covenant-making and covenant-keeping God.
Join us this Lord’s Day as Chad explores this theme of the God who keeps covenant in Ruth 2. What does it mean for God to keep covenant? What does it cost him? How does this encourage us to trust this good God? Are there specific areas of your life in which you need to exercise this trust?
This covenanted commitment is a central theme of the Old Testament and forms the melody line of the book of Ruth. As New Covenant people we have come to know that this central theme is the heart of the New Testament in Jesus Christ. This Lord’s Day we celebrate a family’s devotion to this covenant God as we participate in the sacrament of baptism of their daughter. Join us in prayer and in presence as we rejoice with Scott and Leah in the baptism of their daughter.
For Christ and His Kingdom,