Sermon – Pentecost 18 – October 13, 2019
Text: Ruth 1:1-19a – “He Remains Faithful”
A Story of Faithfulness
We just read the opening to the story of Ruth. The story of Ruth gives us an example of something. This story gives us an example of blind faithfulness.
In the opening of the story, we hear about a woman, Naomi, who has lost everything. She has lost her husband and later her she loses her two grown boys. In that time and place, whether we agree with it or not, a woman who did not have a man to take care of her did not have much of anything or much hope for the future. An Israelite man would rather marry a previously unmarried woman and not a widow. An old widow, like this woman was even less desirable because she would not be able to provide much for the man as far as childbearing. In today’s equivalent, this widow went from being a wife and mother with a home and food to living as a homeless person on the streets with little prospects for getting a job and getting off the streets for the rest of her life. This woman would need a rescuer to save her from the awful life she now had. She would need a man to take marry her and take her back into a family.
The chances of that happening were slim-to-none. Her chances were even smaller because her husband had taken her family to a foreign country and she would now be looked at as a dirty foreigner on top of it all. She laments that God must be punishing her for something she did to deserve such a life. But it is not this woman, Naomi’s, blind faithfulness which this story is about; it is about her daughter-in-law’s, Ruth.
When I say “blind faithfulness” I am not talking about blind faithfulness that does not see all the bad that could come from being faithful but a blind faithfulness that knows about all the bad that could come but ignores it all anyway for the sake of another person. Ruth was still a young woman and was not from an Israelite culture. She could have just as easily gone out and found another man in the foreign country of Moab where they were living and had a life with a man who would have given her children and been a provider for her.
Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi, even encourages both her daughter-in-law’s Orpah and Ruth to stay in the foreign land and find new husbands while Naomi went alone back to the land of Judah to live out the rest of her life as a poor and miserable old Israelite widow. Both of the daughters-in-law want to stay with Naomi because they loved her and they were all grieving the loss of their husbands together. After much prodding we hear that Orpah left to have a better life, but Ruth vowed herself to stick with Naomi for the rest of her life and take on Naomi’s God as her own God and return to Judah with her.
Ruth had a blind faithfulness toward her mother-in-law, Naomi. Naomi warned her and told her over and over about the awful life that would come by sticking with her as an old widow. It would be hard and involve being the lowest of the low and not having much hope for the future. But Ruth, counting the cost and choosing to stay faithful to her mother-in-law, gives up the hope of a future to live with a poor widow.
A Glimpse of His Love
In this story of Ruth, we can see another glimpse of the kind of love God has for us. God’s love for us is like the blind faithfulness Ruth had to Naomi. As we stand in the place of Naomi, we can say to God, “I have done so much wrong in my life. I deserve the bad that I am getting now. Just go away, God, and live a better life and leave me be.”
In a lot of ways, we can look to the bloody cross and feel guilty that it is our sin that put Jesus on there to suffer.
It is only because God stayed with us and sent Jesus that an innocent man had to suffer and die for our sins.
But it is not like God did not have a choice. God could have left us in our sin. God could have left us alone in this world with no hope for the future. It would be fair of God to be like Orpah and leave us alone to suffer.
It would be fair, but it would not be who God is.
God is fair, but He is also full of blind faithfulness. Those are not opposing attributes but attributes that show the depth of who our God is. God has “ches-ed” which is the Hebrew word for steadfast love and what we are calling “blind faithfulness” this morning. A faithfulness that knows the consequences but remains steadfast and true despite them.
The Epistle reading from 2 Timothy talks about our faithfulness to God being like that of a soldier who would gladly suffer and die for his cause. The Epistle talks about our faithfulness to God and what happens as a result. Paul quotes an old saying:
“If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless, He remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.”
Even if you are faithless, God remains faithful to you. God cannot stop being faithful to Himself. God cannot be faithless to His family who is made His through the waters of holy baptism. He cannot be faithless to His very body which is fed and nourished at the communion rail.
Just as Ruth in this story could not be faithless to her family, her mother-in-law, so God cannot be faithless to you. God always remains faithful to you. God has a blind faithfulness towards you which knows the cost of staying with you was death on a cross and sticks with you anyway.
Results of His Faithfulness
What we looked at from the book of Ruth was only the first chapter. There is even more to that story. Ruth stays with Naomi and they go back to Judah. While there, by God’s intricate working, Ruth meets a relative of Naomi whose name was Boaz. Boaz just so happens to be a good man who is a relative of Naomi. God is good and had given laws to help care for and protect widows. One of these laws was that a relative of a widow’s husband must marry the widow and take care of her and her family if he was able. Boaz was a good upstanding man and, after a closer relative rejects marrying Ruth just because she is a foreigner, Boaz stays faithful to his promise to redeem her family and marries Ruth and takes Naomi into his home and cares for them from then on.
Ruth’s faithfulness to Naomi, and Naomi’s God, who is also our God, led God to rescue Naomi from her sad life through Ruth and Boaz’s faithfulness to their God, family, and one another. Even more, God blesses Boaz and Ruth with a son Obed which makes Naomi overjoyed that all her misfortune at the beginning of the book is being reversed and that God was working the whole time to restore her blessings.
This new son, we are told, becomes the grandfather to King David, and a great-great-great (27 great’s) grandfather to Jesus our Lord and Saviour who was the promised Messiah to all Israel and the entire world.
This story shows the faithfulness of not only Ruth and Boaz but also God who was working throughout the entire story to restore Naomi’s blessings and bring a blessing to the entire world of the Faithful One, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
As we are thankful today for many different things, we know that God is working in many different ways to bring blessings to the entire world and it is to Him we give all our thanks and praise on this, and every, thanksgiving.