Ruth 1:8-15 (CSB)
8 Naomi said to them, “Each of you go back to your mother’s home. May the LORD show kindness to you as you have shown to the dead and to me.
9 May the LORD grant each of you rest in the house of a new husband.” She kissed them, and they wept loudly.
10 They said to her, “We insist on returning with you to your people.”
11 But Naomi replied, “Return home, my daughters. Why do you want to go with me? Am I able to have any more sons who could become your husbands?
12 Return home, my daughters. Go on, for I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me to have a husband tonight and to bear sons,
13 would you be willing to wait for them to grow up? Would you restrain yourselves from remarrying? No, my daughters, my life is much too bitter for you to share, because the LORD’s hand has turned against me.”
14 Again they wept loudly, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
15 Naomi said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. Follow your sister-in-law.”
Philippians 4:8 (CSB) Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things.
- Think about when God was so kind to you, even in the midst of your anger and bitterness on how life turned out.
- What is the rest you are seeking from the only God that can give?
- What is a theology of glory? What is a theology of the cross?
- Which came first: Noah doing righteous things first then God saved him? Or was Noah wicked just like the rest of world but God gave grace and then made Noah righteous?
- Follow-up: which way sounds like the world and religion and which way sounds more like the gospel of Christ?
- Think about the sweetness and patience of God in your own life–he saved you but you kept trying to choose your own way–even unto figurative death like death of relationships, or careers, or life circumstances.
- When was that first moment in your own life where your faced towards God and could not turn back? Perhaps that has always been your life because you have always known the love of God. But perhaps you have seen two worlds and had to choose one.
- Think on the goodness of God.
Ruth 1:8 (CSB) Naomi said to them, “Each of you go back to your mother’s home. May the LORD show kindness to you as you have shown to the dead and to me.
God Predestines: God is Kind
Romans 2:4 (CSB) Or do you despise the riches of his kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
The bitterness of Naomi is not unlike the lamentations of Job. We don’t know what God is doing in the times of distress and persecution or why he would be do certain things. But He alone is the source of good. What he does is good things.
As sons of Adam, we will take God’s good gift and corrupt it somehow. That started in the garden, Adam and Eve, took the righteousness of of God and exchanged it for their own righteous. But what we meant for evil, God will always used it for good. (Genesis 50:20)
God provided a way out like he does with with Israel back in Exodus but their hearts turn towards somebody not God but a god that they can fashion and form with their own hands (which God created) and with the treasure received from the Egyptians (which God has graciously provided.)
In Romans 9, we see God hardens the heart of Pharaoh in order to save his people but the people did trust and obey and kept turn back to their slavery days.
Romans 9:6-8 (CSB) Now it is not as though the word of God has failed, because not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Neither is it the case that all of Abraham’s children are his descendants. On the contrary, your offspring will be traced through Isaac. That is, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but the children of the promise are considered to be the offspring.
What we see in the actions of the Jews in Exodus through Judges that God saves and his people keep turning away.
We see the hand of God in Naomi’s life and we are having a front row seat to her heart. What we would God do?
God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance
Make no mistake, Naomi’s bitterness is turn into sin against God. But God is kind to Naomi and kind to us. God gives his heart, his Spirit, the faith to believe and he gives the gift of repentance so that we can always turn back and run into the arms of the Savior who is always waiting for us.
Think about when God was so kind to you, even in the midst of your anger and bitterness on how life turned out.
Ruth 1:9 (CSB) May the LORD grant each of you rest in the house of a new husband.” She kissed them, and they wept loudly.
God Predestines: God Gives Rest
Before we fell from grace, from the start, God intended to give us rest. For him, it was the seventh day of creation. For mankind, it was the first day of our existence.
Genesis 1:31 - 2:3 (CSB) God saw all that he had made, and it was very good indeed. Evening came and then morning: the sixth day. So the heavens and the earth and everything in them were completed. On the seventh day God had completed his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, for on it he rested from all his work of creation.
When we fell, God’s holy Sabbath didn’t decrease in importance but became even more important–crucial to our way of life. Because it is the curse that Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth felt in their broken hearts, aching hands and feet and their empty stomachs is the same pains that we feel in our broken hearts, tired souls, and restless minds. We are tired from getting kicked around by life.
God alone gives that rest we so desperately need now. And in the end, that holy Sabbath will become the final rest for all those who believe and trust in his Son.
There is no mistake that Naomi blessed her daughters with:
“May the LORD grant each of you rest in the house of a new husband”
Revelation 21:2-5 (CSB) I also saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away. Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.”
This text in Ruth is a Messianic prophecy. That blessing from Naomi is a foreshadow to the Christ that will give us final rest in God the Father. That temporal blessing did speak of a coming husband for Ruth, to be sure. But more importantly, for the sake of his people, this is the coming Bridegroom coming for his Bride!
It is our now Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, that preaches His great gospel to our weary hearts and tired minds:
Matthew 11:27–30 (CSB) All things have been entrusted to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son desires to reveal him. “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
What is the rest you are seeking from the only God that can give?
Ruth 1:10–13 (CSB) They said to her, “We insist on returning with you to your people.” But Naomi replied, “Return home, my daughters. Why do you want to go with me? Am I able to have any more sons who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters. Go on, for I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me to have a husband tonight and to bear sons, would you be willing to wait for them to grow up? Would you restrain yourselves from remarrying? No, my daughters, my life is much too bitter for you to share, because the LORD’s hand has turned against me.”
God Predestines: God Gives Grace
In our recent sermons, Jeremiah has made mentioned of two things:
- a theology of glory
- a theology of the cross
What is a theology of glory? What is a theology of the cross?
What exact do those things mean? In the most simplified terms:
- theology of glory - the emphasis on what man does that makes most of a great God.
- theology of the cross - in the broken, jacked-up, messed-up world, God loves us and he has saved us. He sees that we are weak and feeble and cannot save ourselves. We are not good. We are far from him. And we mess up all the time. But he knows. He knows this and does something about it–he sent his Son to save us.
I wanted to be as fair and objective in presenting these two theologies mostly because I grew up with the theology of glory. The theology of “You must be doing something right because look how much God has blessed you” was the mantra for 40+ years of my life.
In attempt to be as fair as possible, I went to AI and see what it had said.
Read ChatGPT’s description:
Theology of glory is a way of thinking about God that emphasizes His power and greatness, and the possibility of human beings achieving success, prosperity, and happiness through their own efforts. In this theology, God is seen as rewarding people who are good and successful, and punishing those who are wicked and unsuccessful. The focus is on the visible and tangible aspects of life, such as material possessions, achievements, and social status.
On the other hand, theology of the cross is a way of thinking about God that emphasizes His love and mercy, and the fact that human beings cannot save themselves by their own efforts. In this theology, God is seen as revealing Himself through suffering and weakness, as seen in the life and death of Jesus Christ. The focus is on the invisible and intangible aspects of life, such as faith, hope, and love.
The theology of the cross emphasizes that God’s ways are often hidden from us and that we cannot fully understand His ways or His purposes. It calls us to rely on God’s grace and mercy, rather than our own achievements or merit. It also invites us to embrace the reality of suffering and weakness in our own lives, recognizing that these can be occasions for experiencing God’s love and for growing in faith.
In contrast, the theology of glory tends to encourage a focus on self-promotion and achievement, and can lead to pride, self-reliance, and a lack of compassion for those who are struggling. It can also lead to a shallow understanding of God’s ways and a lack of humility before His mysteries.
In Christian theology, the distinction between the theology of glory and the theology of the cross can be traced back to the writings of the German theologian Martin Luther. He argued that the true knowledge of God comes through the experience of the cross, which reveals the depth of God’s love and the extent of our need for His grace.
ChatGPT. “Could you explain a ‘theology of glory’ and a ‘theology of the cross”?’. https://chat.openai.com/chat. March 7, 2023 version.
I want to say out of the mouth of babes but even out of the mouth of robots, computers and their programmers may sometimes preach the truth.
In verses 10-13, we see the two theologies at odds here.
Read the passage with eyes of glory: “Wow, Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth must have been wicked unbelievers, struggled with doubt or just made the wrong choices. Look at them. God took their husbands away.”
Now, read the passage with eyes of the cross. It is our lives. It is our losses. It is our relationship hurts. When Jeremiah said last Sunday, “The worst hurts I have ever had were relationship hurts.” Ooof. I felt that in my bones because it was true to me.
To see which theology you read the Bible through, go and reading Genesis 6 and answer this question: Which came first: Noah doing righteous things first then God saved him? Or was Noah wicked just like the rest of world but God gave grace and then made Noah righteous? Then answer this question: which way sounds like the world and which sounds like the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Ruth 1:14-15 (CSB) Again they wept loudly, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. Naomi said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. Follow your sister-in-law.”
God Predestines: God Gives Life
Psalm 16:11a (CSB) You reveal the path of life to me
Matthew 7:13-14 (CSB) “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.
Matthew 13:18-23 (CSB) “So listen to the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word about the kingdom and doesn’t understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the one sown along the path. And the one sown on rocky ground — this is one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. But he has no root and is short-lived. When distress or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he falls away. Now the one sown among the thorns — this is one who hears the word, but the worries of this age and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. But the one sown on the good ground — this is one who hears and understands the word, who does produce fruit and yields: some a hundred, some sixty, some thirty times what was sown.”
Christ explained the kingdom of God:
- Unbelievers cannot understand - we cannot understand the supernatural unless Someone gives us supernatural understanding
- Sometimes, the news is good but does not take root - the gospel is fantastic news but as soon as life comes to kick in you in the pricks, the good news is not enough anymore 1
- Believers have had the work of the Spirit in them - the heart has been made good and the Spirit dwells in them in order for them to believe and the gospel takes root and produces fruit.
Right now, in this passage in Ruth, you are seeing this take place. The same life goad-kicking circumstances–in this, the loss of spouses–has happened to all three women. And in the ancient world, when a woman lost her husband and have no family to speak of, always meant certain poverty and almost always, decline and death. Women had no status to speak of, no rights and no help. That is why the law of God was so bent in watching out for the widow–women were always terribly vulnerable and God gave the law in order for us to watch out for them and care for them.
Naomi, Orpah and Ruth had no husband, no work, no wealth, no immediate family (besides each other who were also in the same exact desperate reality) and you have two choices:
- go back to the world you once knew
- go with God
The Bible never said what happened to Orpah even though we know that she heard the good news of God and for a while it was good. This reminded me of the story Nicodemus in John 3.
We read this and the one of Orpah and may have the evangelical thinking of almost in the same twisting of “once saved always saved” in that “once rejected always damned”. We might assume because they heard the gospel (I mean, from the mouth of the Living God) and did not believe instantly, they must not never believed. But we know from John 3 that is not how the Holy Spirit works. We know from the Parable of the Sower that is not how Christ works. Christ sows the word and Holy Spirit works the soil in us. And if the Bible is never explicit, (Esau and Jacob), then we cannot assume their destiny.
We don’t know what happens to Orpah. But I know that salvation is of God alone for he is the mighty one to save. And remember Nicodemus in John 3, the teacher and ruler who came to Christ under the covering of night?
John 19:39 (CSB) Nicodemus (who had previously come to him at night) also came, bringing a mixture of about seventy-five pounds of myrrh and aloes.
Christ personally preached the gospel to Nicodemus. And perhaps it took all of the life of Nicodemus plus a few more years for the Spirit to work in him.
John 19:40 (CSB) They took Jesus’s body and wrapped it in linen cloths with the fragrant spices, according to the burial custom of the Jews.
Nicodemus went from not understanding the preaching of Christ to physically carrying out Romans 6.
We don’t know what happened to Orpah. But I know God preserves his children–even when they walk back through the valley of shadow death. (Psalm 23:4)
Think about the sweetness and patience of God in your own life--he saved you but you kept trying to choose your own way--even unto figurative death like death of relationships, or careers, or life circumstances.
But in this moment in the story, Ruth clings to Naomi.
Ruth 1:16-18 (CSB) But Ruth replied: Don’t plead with me to abandon you or to return and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live; your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD punish me, and do so severely, if anything but death separates you and me. When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped talking to her.
God Predestines: God Saves Us
Same goad-kicking life circumstances. Two sisters. One couldn’t take it anymore and had to go back to the life she once knew.
I contend to you that Ruth was born again. Christ preaches incessantly that for anybody to see the kingdom of God, you must be born again. In other words, you have to be a new creation in Christ. In other words, you have to have a new heart, His Spirit dwelling in you, your mind renewed, your eyes opened, your ears unplugged, and your dead wicked tongue made alive. You may look no different on the outside but the inside, not even the same person.
Ruth did not know what Bethlehem had in store for her. All she knew was that Naomi worshipped the One True Living God. But back home? They did not. Ruth made a choice because she was gripped by the kindness and goodness of the loving God. She, in turn, had nothing for the world because the world had nothing for her. Just tons of turds.
Luke 14:33 (CSB) In the same way, therefore, every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.
Ruth counted and calculated the cost of what it meant to follow God. But going with her mother-in-law also meant that she did not know what was in store for her and her mother-in-law. But if she went back, perhaps she would die but surely she would perish in the wrath of the Almighty God. Going with Naomi? Meant her chances of dying greatly increased but she would never perish but have everlasting life.
When was that first moment in your own life where your faced towards God and could not turn back? Perhaps that has always been your life because you have always known the love of God. But perhaps you have seen two worlds and had to choose one.
Ruth 1:19-22 (CSB) The two of them traveled until they came to Bethlehem. When they entered Bethlehem, the whole town was excited about their arrival and the local women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” “Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara,” she answered, “for the Almighty has made me very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has opposed me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?” So Naomi came back from the territory of Moab with her daughter-in-law Ruth the Moabitess. They arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.
God Predestines: God Dwells in You
I want to have us let loose the notion that God does not care about you. He cares for you so deeply that not only he sent his Son to live and die for you, he sent his Spirit to give you life, a new heart, and a renew mind. And not only did he send his Spirit, God Father Almighty has made his home in you with his Son and Spirit.
But let also forget the notion that while God cares deeply for you, he is not to be bothered by the details of your life.
We have read the Bible. We know for a fact that God is not only in the details, he is in the details of your life!
“But, wait a second, if he cares so much about the details of my life, why do I still experience pain and suffering here on earth.”
The same Christ who gives us real rest is same Christ who promised suffering if we follow him.
Romans 8:17 (CSB) and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ—if indeed we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
The moment we turned to Christ meant that we turned away from the world. To have our face set towards God who saves is to turn our face against the world.
We are in this world but not of it. And the Father using anything good or evil and using the heavens and earth to conforming you to make you look like his Son will not be painless. Your new birth started with coming from death unto life with his Spirit performing an instant heart and brain transplant.
And we all know the recovery from surgery is long and difficult. No less so for born again Christians how have been crucified with Christ.
But God was there when he made you in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13)
And from birth, he has always been your God (Psalm 22:10)
He alone has determined when you will be born and where you will live so that others might seek him (Psalm 139:8-10; Acts 17:22-34)
God searched you and knows you (Psalm 139:1)
God knows your thoughts (Psalm 139:2)
God is acutely aware of your ways (Psalm 139:3)
Before you speak a word and have it in your heart, God knows it (Psalm 139:4)
But God has always been there with you and protecting you from real danger and threat (Psalm 139:5)
To know that God loves me and cares for me perfectly, intensely, and most intimately, is the greatest relief and peace in the world.
Psalm 139:6 (CSB) This wondrous knowledge is beyond me. It is lofty; I am unable to reach it.
Because despite my not-perfect and not-good motives, Christ is my righteousness and my All-in-all. He is enough because he is everything. I cannot repent enough or be sincere enough or have enough faith or be good enough. Christ is my perfect obedience. I know when I do something that the world or even Christians call good, if I dig that source up out of my flesh, it started something bad. But because I have Christ, I know whatever Christ did, it was purely good because he is the source of God.
So whatever sufferings we might face now or will face, we have the glory of Christ:
Romans 8:18 (CSB) For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.
Think on the goodness of God.
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by Arthur E. Cundall & Leon L. Morris.
IVP Academic. June 1, 1968.
A Sweet and Bitter Providence: Sex, Race, and the Sovereignty of God
by John Piper.
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Esther & Ruth (Reformed Expository Commentary)
by Iain M. Duguid.
P & R Publishing. October 1, 2005.
ESV Reformation Study Bible
Commentary & Edited by R.C. Sproul.
Ligonier Ministries. March 16, 2015.
Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume
by Matthew Henry.
Hendrickson Publishers. 1991.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown’s Commentary on the Whole Bible
by Robert Jamieson, Alexander Cruden & Andrew Robert Fausset.
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by John Gill.
Acts 9:5 (KJV 1900) And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. ↩︎