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Retold: Ruth and Naomi

David MarvinJun 21, 2020Dallas

In This Series (12)
Retold: Jesus Calms the Storm
David LeventhalAug 30, 2020
Retold: The Prodigal Son
David MarvinAug 23, 2020
Retold: The Beginning of the Church Part 2
Todd WagnerAug 16, 2020
Retold: The Beginning of the Church
Todd WagnerAug 9, 2020
Retold: Jonah and the Whale
David LeventhalAug 2, 2020
Retold: Daniel and the Lions' Den
Todd WagnerJul 26, 2020
Retold: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
David PenuelJul 19, 2020
Retold: David and Goliath
Tyler BriggsJul 12, 2020
Retold: The Ten Commandments
Tyler BriggsJul 5, 2020
Retold: Jesus Washes the Disciples' Feet
Blake HolmesJun 28, 2020
Retold: Ruth and Naomi
David MarvinJun 21, 2020Dallas
Retold: The Good Samaritan
Todd WagnerJun 14, 2020

Discussing and Applying the Sermon

  • Where in your life are you prone to believe that God isn’t at work?
  • What hardships are you facing in this season? Have you shared them with your community group so they can pray for, encourage, and remind you of God’s truth?

Summary

Have you ever felt like you can’t see what God is up to? Have there been times where you know that He’s clearly at work, but you can’t see in the moment what He’s doing? As we continue our series, Retold, David Marvin teaches through the book of Ruth, showing us God is always at work, even when it doesn’t seem or look like it.

Key Takeaways

  • Ruth takes place during the same time period as the book of Judges, and there are three main characters: Boaz, Ruth, and Naomi.
  • Ruth is a beautiful but very difficult story involving pain, death, famine, romance, and redemption.
  • Ruth 1:16-17 is one of the most beautiful pictures of loyalty in the entire Bible.
  • God is at work in the details.
  • God is at work when it doesn’t look like it.
  • The first time the word hope is used in the Bible is in the book of Ruth.
  • While we live in a fallen world with viruses, shootings, and evil, there would be that many more of all of those if it weren’t for God at work.
  • Whenever bitter ingredients are in your life, when placed in the hands of a Master Creator, He can make them into something sweet.
  • God took a widow from a foreign land and made her the great (multiple generations) grandmother of Jesus.
  • If you will put whatever you are walking through into the hands of Jesus, He will make good out of it.

Mentioned or Recommended Resources

Hey, my name is David. I have the privilege of serving with The Porch, our young adult ministry, on Tuesday nights. We are continuing this series Retold. Let me start like this. There's a common experience all of us are having right now, those few of us who are here and everyone who is joining us around the country, but particularly in Dallas, and that is an inability to see something that could be present, but we're not totally sure.

What do I mean by that? An inability to see if there are germs related to this virus that is spreading around us. This is going somewhere, by the way. It's not just a PSA or giving my medical perspective on things. In other words, every time I go into the grocery store, I'm aware that there could be germs or there could be the presence of this virus that is here, yet I can't see it.

Sometimes I find myself wishing that some of the officials or elected people who are making decisions… How awesome would it be if we could actually see, "Oh, there's the presence of germs that are there"? But because we can't, we know they may be there, but I'm unable to confirm or I'm unaware. I know it's out there and I know the germs are spreading and are present in places, but I can't always see where it is or how it works or where it's going.

I share that because I often feel in my own life this same way about God. I know he's at work and I know he's there and I know he's doing things, but I just wish I could see and trace his hand, see him working through the pieces in my life and the people around me and inside of their lives. While I know he's clearly at work, I can't always see it in the moment exactly how he is.

The good news is all throughout the Bible we're given indications and told reminders of how we can know how God is at work, some of the ways that he is at work. One of those reminders comes from the book of Ruth. We're in a series called Retold: History Everybody Should Know. We're tracing through stories inside of the Old Testament and New Testament that everyone should know.

This morning, we're going to talk about the book of Ruth. You may have never heard a message in the book of Ruth. You're about to get one. We're going to fly through four chapters in the book of Ruth. It's a book inside of your Old Testament. We're going to explore this story and be given two reminders of how God works, how you and I can see and know he's at work.

So, let me set up the book of Ruth. The book of Ruth takes place in the Old Testament. The Old Testament is about the nation of Israel and God's relationship with them. Specifically, when inside of the Old Testament this takes place is what's called the days of the judges, which is around 1300 BC. The days of the judges were the days where judges, not kings, were the leaders in the nation of Israel.

Now, when we think judge we think Judge Judy, but that's not really how they would have thought about judges. They would have thought, honestly, closer to Clay Jenkins in our day, more of a regional leader God would raise up to judge and discern the nation. The time of the judges was also the darkest chapter…

If you've ever read the book of Judges, which is the time frame the book Ruth takes place in, you're aware it's one of the darkest chapters in the Old Testament. It's one of the darkest times in the entire Bible. It's a time that, over and over, it says, "Everyone did what was right in their own eyes." Ruth, many scholars and, really, history tell us, was originally connected to the book of Judges. They weren't two separate books. They were connected or at least placed right by one another.

At some point along the way, people were like, "We should distinguish these, because the book of Judges has so much carnage and is horrific. It's like watching Braveheart. Then the book of Ruth is this beautiful autumn love story woven together." So someone was like, "We should switch this. This is like The Notebook and this is like Braveheart. We should put some separation in these." But Ruth takes place during those days.

The second thing to know, as we set up where we're going to go, is where this all took place. It primarily took place in Bethlehem of the nation of Israel, and then there was the country of Moab. Moab was not a part of the land God had given Israel and not a part of where God's people were supposed to live, but you'll see what takes place there.

Then there are our three main characters. Inside of this book, there are three main characters. There are several other characters, but there are really three primary ones. There's a guy named Boaz, there's a girl named Ruth, and Ruth's mother-in-law Naomi. When I read through the Bible, I begin to think through, "Who would be a person I would cast in this role if they were there?" So I began to think of each person and who I would put in those roles.

So, if you're following along to know the story, here's who I think of when I think of Ruth: Rachel McAdams. Girl next door. Pretty girl. She's there. She ends up, as you'll see, at the heart of the love story that's there. Then you have to have the suitor or the husband who's involved. We're told he's probably in his 30s. This may not be the perfect one, but here's who I think of: Bradley Cooper. There he is. Bradley and Rachel. They have something going on in past movies.

Then we have the mother-in-law. This will even make more sense why I would choose this person. Maggie Smith. Here's Naomi from Downton Abbey. Man, she looks regal. So, those are our characters. We're going to dive in to how these three characters and the way God is at work in their midst show us how God is always at work. I'm just going to fly through this story. I'm going to play the movie, if you will, and then at the end, we're going to do two reminders of how God is at work.

Let me start in Ruth, chapter 1, verse 1. "In the days when the judges ruled in Israel, a severe famine came upon the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah left his home [because of that famine, to go find food, and he took his family] and went to live in the country of Moab…" Moab was not a place God's people were supposed to live. Who lived in Moab? The Moabites.

What do we know about the Moabites? The Moabites were people God didn't want his people living amongst because they worshiped a foreign god, a god that required child sacrifice. So, not exactly the best neighbors you could have. Regardless, out of desperation, the guy picks up his family, and they move to Moab.

"…taking his wife and two sons with him. The man's name was Elimelech, and his wife was Naomi." She's one of our characters. "Their two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in the land of Judah. And when they reached Moab, they settled there. Then Elimelech died, and Naomi was left with her two sons." She becomes a widow.

"The two sons married Moabite women. One married a woman named Orpah…" Kind of an unfortunate name. "…and the other a woman named Ruth. But about ten years later, both Mahlon and Kilion died. This left Naomi alone, without her two sons or her husband." So, the story starts of this man who takes his family… Out of desperation, because there wasn't any food, they move to Moab, and he brings his two sons with him. They marry foreign women, which they weren't supposed to do, but God was still at work. He was sovereign over all of that.

Very shortly into their time there, Elimelech dies, and then after about a decade, the two sons die, and Naomi is left with Orpah and Ruth. Now, this would be tragic in any day. This is tragic today if a woman loses her husband and then shortly after that loses her two sons, but in Naomi's day, this was as bad as it could get. There wasn't any sort of retirement fund or 401(k). There was no ability to save over time.

So Naomi, in that day, would have done what every person would have done, which is, "Hey, what's my retirement fund? Babies. That's how I'm going to make sure that whenever I get old, my kids are going to provide and take care of me." So she just lost everything, and she's left with these two foreign women who are still loosely connected but not directly connected. She's in a foreign land. What's going to happen?

We're told that shortly after that, she basically goes to the girls, and she's like, "Hey, look. You guys are still young. You should go back to your homeland. Go back to your parents. Go try to get married again. Life doesn't have to be over for you. It's pretty much over for me. I'm going to go back to Israel and back to my homeland." She has this conversation with Orpah and Ruth, and we're told that Orpah is kind of like, "No. Who's going to take care of you?" And she's like, "No. You need to go back. It doesn't have to be over." And Orpah eventually is like, "Okay," and she leaves.

She has the same convo with Ruth, and Ruth does something very different, where she says, "No. I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to care for you. I need to protect you. Who's going to look after you?" She gives us one of the most beautiful lines in the entire book, really in the Bible, a line you've probably heard if you've been to a wedding.

"But Ruth replied, 'Don't ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separates us!'"

Incredible loyalty shown by Ruth to Naomi. "Hey, wherever you go, I'm going to go with you." Which would have come at incredible cost to Ruth. Not only is she saying, "Hey, if you're going back to Israel, I'm going to come with you and I'm going to care for you," but think about how that would have impacted her chances of getting remarried. Think about that, girls who are in the audience right now if you're single or, really, wherever you are in life. Think about how that would have impacted her chances of having another spouse someday.

She goes and introduces herself, and everywhere in life she goes she has Naomi, this older woman who's traveling with her. She meets a guy, and the guy is like, "Who's this?" She's like, "Oh, this is my former husband's mother. We're kind of a package deal." You look on Ruth's Match.com profile, it's her and Naomi sitting there together. It wouldn't have been the most advantageous thing in her life. She's saying, "I don't care what it costs me. I'm going to provide for you."

So, they pick up and move back to Israel, and they end up getting into Israel, and we're told this. Chapter 1, verse 22: "So Naomi returned from Moab, accompanied by her daughter-in-law Ruth, the young Moabite woman. They arrived in Bethlehem in late spring, at the beginning of the barley harvest." So, they get back into Bethlehem. You probably have heard of that before. It's where Jesus was born. It's at the time of the harvest. That's going to become important in a second.

We're also told a few verses later that when they get there, people go out and they're like, "Oh, Naomi! Man, it has been over a decade. It has been a minute." How long had it been? We're not exactly sure, but somewhere around 10, maybe 11 or 12 years. The town goes out to greet her and say, "Naomi is back." This is why I love the Bible. It's so honest. Naomi says to the people in the town, "Don't call me Naomi; call me Mara," which means bitter.

She plays off of her name. The name Naomi actually means sweet. She says, "Don't call me sweet; call me bitter, because God has made my circumstances bitter." Because of the pain of losing her husband and losing her children. They get back in Bethlehem, and they begin to set up shop and realize, "We have to figure out something, because we don't have any food. We need to go eat." Luckily, it was the time of the harvest. Chapter 2, verse 2:

"One day Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, 'Let me go out into the harvest fields to pick up the stalks of grain left behind by anyone who is kind enough to let me do it.' Naomi replied, 'All right, my daughter, go ahead.' So Ruth went out to gather grain behind the harvesters. And as it happened, she found herself working in a field that belonged to Boaz, the relative of her father-in-law, Elimelech."

Your translation may have she goes out to glean. What was gleaning? Gleaning was something God established in Israel that was kind of the first welfare system they had, if you will. In other words, harvesters would go through and pick up wheat and stalks of grain from the fields, and anything that was dropped and certain edges of the field were not to be picked up because God said, "I want to leave something for anyone who may not have food to eat." It's brilliant.

God cares about the poor…he still does…like he cares about everyone. He built this into the nation so they would have provision for people. So, Ruth is in one of those situations where she's like, "Man, we don't have anything to eat. I'm going to go get access to food that God has made provision for by going into someone's field and hopefully finding some food." Not just any field, we're told. She ends up in Boaz's field. Rachel McAdams ends up in the field, it just so happens, of Bradley Cooper.

Not only that. Boaz is not just any guy. We're told he's a family relative, that he was related. He was a cousin of Naomi's dead husband Elimelech, so they're connected in their family. Then verse 4: "While she was there, Boaz arrived from Bethlehem…" Their love story is about to begin. "…and greeted the harvesters. 'The Lord be with you!' he said. 'The Lord bless you!' the harvesters replied."

Clearly, Boaz was a liked guy. Think about what just happened. People are out there picking up the grain. He shows up, and he's like, "Hey, the Lord be with you" to his employees, and all of them popped out of the stalks, and they're like, "No, the Lord bless you." Think about if that were to happen in your work environment. Clearly, the boss is liked if he shows up, wherever you work, and he's like, "Hey, the Lord be with you," and everyone pops out of their cubicle and is like, "No, the Lord bless you." Clearly, Boaz was a liked guy.

"Then Boaz asked his foreman…" He notices there's more than just his employees in the field. "Who is that young woman over there? Who does she belong to?" This would be a translation of Joey from Friends going, "How are you doing?" He sees this girl who's not normally there, and he likes what he sees, as we're going to discover. He goes over to her and says, "Don't go to another field to glean. Come back here, and I'll give you food, and I'll protect you. Anytime you need something, you come back here."

We're told he also invites her to a lunch, so we have our first date that takes place. I love the detail, because it says they have roasted grain and oil and vinegar. It's like Macaroni Grill. He busts it out, and he's like, "So how are you doing, and where are you from?" They're just eating with one another, having a conversation. At the end of the conversation, he says, "Hey, I don't want you to just take this roasted grain and leave. I'm going to give you 40 pounds of food, and I want you to take it home and bring it back to your family." Chapter 2, verse 10:

"Ruth fell at his feet and thanked him warmly. 'What have I done to deserve such kindness?' she asked. 'I am only a foreigner.' 'Yes, I know,' Boaz replied. 'But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers. May the Lord , the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.'"

She asks, "Why are you being so nice?" and he basically says, "I heard how loyal you were to your mother-in-law." She goes home. She has 40 pounds of food. She gets back to Naomi. Naomi is like, "Man! This was a good day. What happened?" Ruth begins to explain to Naomi, "I bumped into this guy named Boaz, and he was so nice. We sat there, and we had Macaroni Grill, and he gave me 40 pounds of food. It was just incredible."

Verse 20: "'May the Lord bless him!' Naomi told her daughter-in-law. 'He is showing his kindness to us as well as to your dead husband. That man is one of our closest relatives, one of our family redeemers.'" That word would have been really significant to any Jewish person who's reading this. But what's a family redeemer? You may have kinsman redeemer. A family redeemer was basically someone who was close enough in the family…

God had a law that if a person died, someone who was related to them… There were select family redeemers who could marry the widow of the relative who had died. Basically, Naomi is going, "This is not just any nice guy. This is a potential suitor for you, girl. We have an option. This could be your one. This could be the person God brings about for you to marry. This isn't just some Boaz. This could be your beau. This could be your 'Boo-az.'"

That's basically what she's saying. "This is not just any person." She kind of goes into matchmaking mode, if you will. Anybody have a mom or someone in your family who, every time you're around her, is like, "So, anybody new on the radar? Are you thinking about getting married?" That's essentially what Naomi is doing. She's trying to play matchmaker. "This isn't just any guy. This could be your guy."

Basically, we're told that Ruth keeps going back to the field every single day to get food, taking Boaz up on his offer that "I will provide for you," and then, at the beginning of chapter 3 (I love this; this is such a crazy story), Naomi comes to Ruth and says, "Hey, I've got an idea. I've got the game plan. If you can't seal the deal, I'll do it." She says, "Here's what I want you to do," and she begins to lay out "Here's how we're going to tie this knot together."

She gives the play, and she goes, "First, I need you to take a shower, girl, because you smell. I don't want you smelling like the field, so clean it up." It literally says, "I need you to clean yourself. Get ready, and then tonight, Boaz is going to be out sleeping with the harvesters in his barn, and here's what you're going to do. You're going to go all cleaned up, smelling good, into that barn. He's going to be asleep. Take the covers he's covered with, pull back the covers from his feet, and I want you to lay over the top of his feet."

This would have been a custom and somewhat normal in their day. Sidenote: this is not prescriptive of anything anyone here should be doing. In other words, if the biggest takeaway you walk away with is "Huh. That's how the Bible says you get a man…" That's not exactly the point they're trying to make. It's just how this happened.

So she gets ready. She's cleaning up. She's like, "Naomi, are you sure this is going to work?" Naomi is like, "It's going to work, girl. I've got you." She goes. Boaz is asleep. She pulls the covers back. She lays over his feet, which startles him that night, and he, of course, asks what any of us would ask, "Who are you?" as he wakes up in the middle of the night with this woman lying over his feet. "'I am your servant Ruth,' she replied. 'Spread the corner of your covering over me, for you are my family redeemer.'"

Beautiful, poetic language. Here's essentially what she's saying: "Hey, look. If you like it, you should have put a ring on it," in the famous words of Beyonce. "I'm inviting you. If you like it, put a ring on it." Boaz basically is like, "All right, I'm in," and their love story continues. Then he realizes, "Man, I can't marry this girl yet." There's a hitch. Just like any good love story, there's a problem. The problem was there was a closer family redeemer. There was a relative who, basically, had first right of refusal to marry Ruth.

So he had to make sure he went to that other family redeemer and asked, "Are you interested in marrying this girl?" He knows he has to go off of that. So, he goes to the guy, we're told at the beginning of chapter 4. In my mind, he has to be thinking… Like, Bradley Cooper is going. He's hoping to marry Rachel McAdams. He has to be hoping this other guy who had first right of refusal… "Please say no. Please say no. Please say no."

But he goes. He explains the situation to this other family member. We're not told the name of the guy. In my mind, he's like, "Hey, look. So, this girl showed up. She's a little homely. Technically, you have first right of refusal. I don't think I would do it if I were you, but I want to make sure you know your options. If you do it, you also get Naomi. It's a package deal. Do you want a bitter old woman in your life for the rest of your life? Is that something you want?"

As he begins to explain it, the guy eventually says, "No. I'm not interested. That would come at too much cost to me." So Boaz, with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye, skips home knowing, "I am going to marry this girl." He gets home. They begin to have the wedding. The wedding takes place, and then in verse 9 of chapter 4, Boaz says this to a crowd gathered around:

"You are witnesses that today I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion, and Mahlon. And with the land I have acquired Ruth, the Moabite widow of Mahlon, to be my wife. This way she can have a son to carry on the family name of her dead husband and to inherit the family property here in his hometown. You are all witnesses today." Big moment in the story.

"So Boaz took Ruth into his home, and she became his wife. When he slept with her, the Lord enabled her to become pregnant, and she gave birth to a son. […] The neighbor women said, 'Now at last Naomi has a son again!' And they named him Obed. He became the father of Jesse and the grandfather of David."

It's an amazing story. There's so much we could unpack and look at if we had time, but I just want to go quickly through two reminders that we see from the story of Ruth. It's a beautiful story, but it also involves incredible pain and challenges that came about. There's a famine. There's the loss of three husbands. There's a woman who's so poor she has to, basically, take advantage of the food stamps of the day, yet God was at work in the midst of all of it.

1 . God is at work in the details. He was at work in the details of Ruth's story, of Boaz's story. He was at work over all of the details that were taking place. He was sovereign over the fact that Boaz was still single when Ruth came by. He was sovereign over the fact that Boaz decided to marry her and the unnamed family member decided, "I'm not going to marry her."

God moves people's hearts. He's at work in the details. He's at work in the details of your life. We're told in Proverbs 21:1, "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord , like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes." Or "…wherever he pleases." If you're a believer, you know that God is sovereign in the details of your life, and he's sovereign over the hearts of even individuals and people inside of your life.

He's sovereign over where you work, over who your boss is. That field she just so happened to pop into… He was sovereign over that. The phrase just so happened is repeated over and over throughout the book of Ruth. The author of it is clearly indicating "And it just so happened," because God was moving the pieces around in the story to bring about his plan. He's sovereign over your life. It feels random that you live in the city you do. It's not random. God placed you because God works in the details.

Proverbs 16:9 says, "We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps." He's sovereign in the details. He's sovereign over you. He's at work in the details of how you were created, the color of hair you have, the height you are, your marital status. He formed and created and fashioned you. Psalm 139:13-14 says (David speaking to God), "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."

2 . God is at work when it doesn't look like it. This was clearly a time both in the nation of Israel with the judges, like I said… It's the darkest chapter in the entire Old Testament, chapter in the storyline of the nation of Israel, yet God was at work the entire time, even when it didn't always seem like it or look like it. Naomi's perspective was not "Hey, this is clearly a God thing. This is clearly God at work."

This is not a story where you would read or, if you were living it, you would be like, "You know what? This clearly was a God thing. I moved to a foreign country I never should have lived in according to God. My husband dies while I'm there. My two sons end up dying, and now I'm left with these women here." This looks like anything other than "That's clearly God at work; that's a God thing right there," yet that's exactly what it was.

Naomi didn't see it, which is why she said, "Call me bitter, because my life is bitter." She couldn't see that even when it doesn't look like it, God is at work, that he's moving the pieces around. He doesn't cause a lot of the darkness that comes in our lives because of the decisions we make, but he is at work even when it doesn't look like it. He's at work when viruses spiral out of control, when chaos and divisions and things are taking place in our nation. He's always at work.

Do you know when the first time the word hope is used in the Bible? Ruth. The darkest chapter, the darkest time, and the first time we're told hope is introduced. God is always at work even when we can't see it, even when it doesn't look like it. He was so at work over the famine, the desperation that moved them to Moab, all the pain, becoming a widow, all of the challenges they faced…

He was so at work that it would be through all of those pieces he would bring about the Messiah. He would bring about Ruth, who would have a baby named Obed, who would have a baby named Jesse, who would have another son named David, who would be the great-great-great-great-great-grandfather of Jesus. He's at work even when it doesn't look like it, even when we cannot see it. He's at work through every authority, every president, every government. It's all underneath God's sovereign plan and power.

Why would he not stop some of the pain or some of the evil in our world? Why wouldn't he stop school shootings or terrorism or epidemics of a virus? He's constantly stopping them. Every second that another virus doesn't spiral out of control or another shooting or another mass terrorist act doesn't happen is because God is stopping it from happening. He is. For whatever reason, and we don't fully understand, in his divine wisdom, he'll allow certain things that he doesn't cause but he allows to happen, but it's not because he's not at work.

We are told that even when he allows those things to happen, he will bring beauty from ashes and good from any brokenness in the world around us. In Ecclesiastes 3:11 it says, "God will make everything beautiful in its time." He has promised to make everything broken be woven together. Every painful moment in your story can be used and, if you're a believer, will be used to bring about good. Specifically, Romans 8 tells us it's the good of making you look more like Jesus. He's working even in the most painful of circumstances, even when things feel bitter.

It's not dissimilar to this. If I were to offer to anyone in the audience, anyone here right now or anyone at home, "Hey, would you like some of the stuff I have on this stage…?" I have some flour. I have some butter. I have some sugar. I have some eggs. I have some frosting and some baking powder, reduced sodium. I have some ingredients up here, and if I were to offer, "Would anyone want these…?"

Like, is anyone interested in a stick of butter? Anyone doing some bulletproof something? Anyone interested in some flour, where you want to just take some and eat some? No. In and of themselves, all of these things would be bitter. You're not going to eat those unless you're on Fear Factor or you're Gaston eating raw eggs. Right? Because we know that's gross. But when you take all of those ingredients and put them in the hands of a master baker, those same bitter ingredients make something incredibly sweet.

Whatever bitter ingredients are in your life or my life or in the circumstances around us, when placed in the hands of a master not baker but creator, he takes bitter things and makes sweet of them. Candidly, I know Father's Day is a great day and awesome chance to celebrate fathers everywhere. It's also a really painful day for a lot of people. It's a reminder of the father who wasn't around. It's a reminder of the father or the husband who left. It's a reminder of the pain a lot of us feel even when we think about our father.

I don't know where you are and what you're walking through and what challenges you're facing in life, but I do know that when we take our lives, when we take anything we're walking through and the circumstances we find ourselves in, and if we are willing to put all of those into the hands of a master creator, he takes bitter things and makes them sweet. He brings about good and beauty from ashes. He takes our pain and attaches purpose to it. He's both weaving the story and details of our lives from a big-picture level, and he has also invited us, saying, "Your story doesn't have to be done."

If you're a single mom and you're wishing you had a father who was present for your child, your story is not done. Your life isn't over. God says, "Will you bring your life to me? Trust me. I take bitter things and make them sweet. I take a widow from a foreign land and make her the great-grandmother of Jesus. I'm not done. I'm at work, and I'm inviting you. Will you put whatever you're walking through in my hands?" When you do, you've placed it into the hands of a God who makes bitter things beautiful and sweet.

Ultimately, the story of Ruth points us not just to how Jesus arrived on the planet and how he came into our world through his lineage. Ultimately, the story points to Jesus. Why do I say that? Well, first, because Jesus said in Luke, chapter 24… He was walking one day with two of his disciples on a road to Emmaus, which is just a place. He's walking with these two disciples, and he says, "Hey, guys. Do you know that everything in the Old Testament points to me? Everything. Every picture, every story, all of the prophets, all of the law…all of it was to point to me."

I wish we had time to go into all of the different ways God was clearly pointing to Jesus along the way, but for now, specifically in the book of Ruth, Jesus is saying, "The book of Ruth points to me." "Jesus, how does the book of Ruth point to you? It's about Boaz and a woman and Naomi. None of this seems like it's pointing to you." All of it is. Boaz is called the lord of the harvest. Jesus is also called the Lord of the harvest, of a far greater harvest…not of fields of wheat and grain but of mankind.

We're told that Boaz goes out and picks a person who was unworthy to be chosen. Jesus, the Lord of the harvest, goes out, and he chose you and me and every person on the planet, if they're willing to accept it, despite the fact we're unworthy to be chosen. The climax of the story involves a baby boy, Obed, being born in Bethlehem. The climax of the story of life involves a baby boy, Jesus, being born in Bethlehem. All throughout the story, it points to him.

Boaz is called a redeemer. In order to be a redeemer, you had to have the right… Like, "Hey, I have the right, I have the resources (I can pay for it), and I have the resolve (I'm willing to do it)." Jesus is our Redeemer who had the right, because he owns and created everything; he had the resources, his own life he was willing to give; and he had the resolve. "Whatever the cost, I will do it." Every page points to Jesus, and the book of Ruth is no different.

Jesus is that God who takes bitter things and makes them sweet. I just want you to hear me. Whatever you're facing, whatever you're walking through, if you will put those things in the hands of a master creator, he will make sweet out of bitter. He will make beauty from ashes. He turns graves into gardens. He does it over and over and over, and he has invited us to trust him. He's at work even when you can't see it. Bring your life and let him make a beautiful story with bitter ingredients. Let me pray.

Father, thank you for the beautiful story of Ruth and how its beauty is found ultimately in that it points to you. You're our Redeemer. You're the Lord of the harvest. You choose unworthy people. You take bitterness and make it sweet. For anyone listening right now who is feeling the reminder on a day like Father's Day of how they failed as a father, of how they were failed by their father, of the decisions and the mistakes they've made that weren't best for their children…

Whatever they're walking through, God, I pray you would meet them there with your grace and they would put their life, they would put their decisions, they would put their past, they would put all of those ingredients in your hands and you would make something sweet. That's what you do. You're the only one who can. Thank you for Jesus, our Redeemer, who gave his life so we could have eternal life forever with you and abundant life now. We worship you in song, amen.