Ensuring you are really getting what you pay for in the jewelry business can be difficult. Sometimes characteristics that can impact the jewelry’s value are hidden from the naked eye. So to adequately assess the quality of a precious stone, sometimes a deeper, closer look is needed.
Take diamonds for instance. We’re all familiar with the 4 C’s right? Cut, Color, Clarity, and Carat. Yet, not all of these characteristics are readily transparent. A powerful tool – like a magnifying glass – is needed. And when you hold that magnifying glass up to that precious stone and against the light, certain hidden characteristics suddenly become illuminated. Certain qualities that you couldn’t have seen otherwise are suddenly very clear.
Ladies, that’s how we’re going to approach the book of Ruth – like it is a precious gem. I know most of us are familiar with the story of Ruth. It is easy to get pulled into the love story between Ruth and Boaz. But, I want to ask you to reconsider how you’ve understood the book of Ruth in the past. Because we know there is more to biblical narratives than mere plot and characters. I hope you take a deeper look at this literary masterpiece – looking for hidden qualities that could possibly impact the meaning of the book and your interpretation of it. Just like jewelers who use a special tool through which to evaluate the quality of a jewel, we are going to hold this true story up to the light and ask the Holy Spirit to illumine this precious book for us.
I named this study “Providential Love” for a very good reason reason. Truly, it is a love story between a man and woman. But it is also full of seemingly meaningless suffering, “chance” encounters, plot twists, and it even has a surprise ending. However, for those us who have a relationship with the King of the Universe, we know those events or circumstances that seem meaningless, coincidental, and surprising are, in fact, not at all. God’s hand is always at work on our behalf, providentially arranging our lives for our good and his glory. I believe the author’s intent in writing the book of Ruth is to make a case for the providence of God. Specifically, we’ll see that God’s providence:
- not only saves two women from destitute circumstances;
- not only brings together a man and woman in marriage;
- and not only restores Elimelech’s family lands and family name;
- but God’s providence is at work for a much greater reason.
And so, yes, we study Ruth to find out how God moved at a specific place and time (in the life of Ruth/ in the days of the judges), but also so that we might superimpose the significance of the book into our lives.
I can think of three very good reasons to give the book of Ruth a closer look:
1. The Scriptures are centered around the Messiah – the “seed” of David.
Even though the Bible is comprised of 66 books written by over 40 different authors, Scripture is one, unified, coherent story. So when we read the Scriptures, we must take into account the big picture of God’s redemptive plan for all creation. And when we are conscientious to follow that big picture, we see that the entire biblical story traces the coming Messiah through the promised “seed.” The book of Ruth is no exception to the big picture of redemption. We will discover that the union of Ruth and Boaz will serve as a key link in the line of this “promised seed.” It is through the seemingly meaningless circumstances of Ruth and Naomi, that God providentially preserves the line of Christ! And so today, you and I must constantly center and organize our lives around the Messiah.
2. The standard feature of God’s relationship with His People: His Providential Care
In studying Ruth, we’re also going to discover that in accomplishing the big task of Scripture (preserving the line of Christ), God also meticulously cares for our needs as well today. Next week we will begin to look at the biblical text, and we will come face to face with some difficult circumstances. Circumstances that I venture some of us already have or will be faced with one day. And so, we need to know:
- that God’s providence gives meaning to those circumstances and
- how to trust God’s providence in the midst of those circumstances.
We must constantly learn to trust God’s care for our lives in His time, His protection, and His provision.
3. The story of biblical characters who demonstrate how to reflect the lovingkindness (hesed) of God regardless of time and culture.
And lastly, there is a model to emulate in the book of Ruth. We will see that the book’s main characters will become living, breathing examples of God’s gracious, lovingkindness (hesed)toward all men. Ruth and Boaz will repeatedly go above and beyond what is expected of them to show favor to others. Ruth and Boaz will repeatedly demonstrate obedience to the spirit of the law as well as the letter of the law. Ruth and Boaz will repeatedly act, not in their own self interests, but for the benefit of others. And so we will see that just as the book of Ruth showcases God pouring out his hesed on his people through his providential activity, so the main characters will becoming organic embodiments of this biblical principle. Today, you and I must constantly strive toward the renewal of God’s image in us through the perfect image andhesed of Christ.
Ruth is a fairytale indeed. One of Scripture’s precious gems waiting for us to take a closer look and examine its riches.