God is King
The Book of Ruth
Ruth 4: God is King
This morning we conclude our five-part series in the book of Ruth. I have greatly enjoyed this study. Personally, my biggest takeaway from this book has been to see the providence of God in a different light. Last week in particular I was blown away by how in Ruth 3 God orchestrates circumstances in which Naomi and Boaz become the answer to their own prayer requests. What a crazy idea. I’ve enjoyed seeing God’s work in a new and fresh light through the book of Ruth.
For our next series, which will begin next week, we will dive into the book of Philippians. This series will take us longer than the five weeks it took us to get through Ruth. I imagine that our series in Philippians will take us through next Spring and we will end at the beginning of Summer. I’m not sure. That’s only a guess. Don’t hold me to that. I retain the right to adjust that prediction. We will not go straight through Philippians. We will pause to take some breaks. We might do an Advent series as we approach Christmas. Or, do some study in the OT. Once again, I’m not sure.
Is God King? Problem
Nevertheless, we still have one more chapter to cover in Ruth before we conclude this series. This chapter serves as the climax of the book. It’s the chapter that ties all the loose ends together. And this chapter serves as a concluding statement regarding the question, “Is God King?” This chapter serves to answer the question that the book of Ruth seeks to answer: “Is God King?” Well, Pastor, how do you get that question from Ruth? It arises from a several places.
First, we see it in the position that the book of Ruth has within the OT canon. I mentioned this point in the in the introductory sermon to the book of Ruth. You will notice in your Bibles that the book of Ruth occurs in between the books of Judges and 1 Samuel. This is not a coincidence. God has determined what books we have in our Bibles, along with the order of those books. Both Judges and 1 Samuel concern the topic of kingship. Judges tells the story of a time in Israel’s history when there was no king and lawlessness reigned. 1 Samuel tells the story of the establishment of Israel’s monarchy. Both tell these stories. Ruth sits in between these books. In Ruth, Israel still doesn’t have a king. The same questions that arose in Judges also arise in Ruth. Suffering, chaos, death, famine—the themes of Judges and Ruth—lead us and Israel to the question, “Is God King?”
Second, we see this question arise when we consider what transpired in Ruth 1 with reference to Naomi’s husband. Turn to Ruth 1:2. Here we are introduced to Naomi’s husband. The passage reads tells us that the man’s name was “Elimelech.” In the ANE, parents thought of names for their children in a much different way than we do. We tend to pick names based upon the sound of the name. In the ANE, names were chosen for their meaning, not necessarily their sound. Names in the Bible have great significance. And here we see that. “Elimelech” literally means “My God is King.” This name is intentional for the story. God’s kingship is an important part of the story. What happens, though, to “My God is King?” Well, Ruth 1:3 states, he dies. That’s a problem. The meaning of “Elimelech” combined with the reality that he’s dead should lead us to question whether God is King. If “My God is King” is dead, then is God king?
It is based upon these upon these two points, Ruth’s position in between Judges and 1 Samuel, and the meaning and death of Elimelech, that I have developed the question, “Is God King?” The book of Ruth as a whole and chapter 4 specifically answer this question. And the answer is, “Yes, God is King.” Despite what has transpired in this book and in your life—the suffering, the difficulty, the pain—we can still say as a church and as individuals that “God is King.” That’s the title of my sermon this morning: “God is King.”
There are three reasons from Ruth 4 for why we should answer the question “Is God King?” with the answer “God is King.” These three reasons will form my three points.
God is King because He Is Sovereign
The first reason why we should conclude from Ruth 4 that God is King is because He is sovereign. He is sovereign. He is in control of the events that transpire in Ruth 4. This has been a prominent point in all my sermons on Ruth. You might ask, “Why does pastor keep saying the same thing?” The reason why this is so is because God’s sovereignty looms large in Ruth. I’m not making this stuff up. I’m just the mailman—the one delivering the message. There are two ways God’s kingship through his sovereignty can be seen in chapter 4.
Timing of the Redeemers Arrival
The first way we notice this is in the timing the potential redeemer’s arrival. We get this from Ruth 4:1. We will read through v. The passage reads,
Now Boaz had gone up to the gate and sat down there. And behold, the redeemer, of whom Boaz had spoken, came by.
The rest of this section in chapter 4 deals with the legal proceedings that accompany Boaz redeeming Ruth. The first necessary part of this legal proceeding is that Boaz must find the potential redeemer. The story can be concluded without the arrival of the potential redeemer.
As it so happens, this redeemer just drops out of the sky. Boaz decided to go and show up at the gate and viola there’s the redeemer. God brought the potential redeemer to this place at this specific time.
How do we know this is the hand of God bringing this man to this point at this specific time? Turn to Ruth 3:13. Boaz says this to Ruth after she lays at his feet:
Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the LORD lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.
Boaz makes a vow here to Ruth based on the LORD’s name that he would either redeem her the next morning, or the other redeemer would do it. Well, Boaz isn’t in control of the other redeemer. Nevertheless, Boaz fulfills this vow to Ruth. How does he do it? The LORD brought that person to Boaz in order that Boaz could fulfill his vow to Ruth. God did it. Viola the man appears.
Linguistic Similarity w/ Ruth 2:4
The second way we know is by the linguistic similarities that this episode has with another episode in Ruth. We’ve reviewed this episode several times. Turn to Ruth 2:3–4. It reads,
So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech. And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem.
As I’ve argued, this “coincidence” is divinely ordained. This text presents the encounter between Ruth and Boaz as by chance, by luck. Nevertheless, this presentation of the event is from the perspective of Ruth. While there are apparent circumstances in life, there is no such thing as randomness in God’s economy. God was the one who brought Ruth to Boaz’s field. Look at v.4 where it says, “Behold.” This “behold” indicates that God is at work through “coincidences.” Now turn back to Ruth 4:1. What do we see here?
And behold, the redeemer, of whom Boaz had spoken, came by. The author is saying: Wow. Look at this coincidence. He’s here right on time. Just as God had planned.
The second way God shows his sovereignty in this chapter is through the birth of Obed. Look at Ruth 4:13.
So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son.
It’s important to notice two issues about this passage.
First, we need to remember that Ruth did not have children when she was married to Naomi’s son. Ruth 1:4–5 specifies that Ruth had been married to Naomi’s son for about ten years and yet had not had any children. She was barren. God needed to intervene if she was to have a child.
Second, this verse specifically attributes Ruth’s conception with Obed to the LORD’s actions. Most of God’s activities in this book are hidden, behind the scenes, ordinary. That is not the case here. God directly intervenes. God is sovereign over the womb. God is sovereign over Ruth’s womb. He opens it when he sees fit, in perfect accordance with his plan.
As King, God is in control. God shows forth his kingship through his sovereignty of circumstances. He guides, directs, and orchestrates. God is always at work. In difficulty and in ease, God reigns. He is King.
In your pain, God is in control. Your difficulty does not catch God by surprise. He isn’t caught off guard. No. He guides and directs your suffering towards a purpose. His purpose is love, kindness, and grace. He is in control of your circumstances. And, moreover, he is a loving Father. He is using the difficulty for your good and his glory.
God is King because He Rewards the Faithful
Second, we see that God is King because he rewards the faithful. God is King because he rewards the faithful.
OT Principle of Reaping/Sowing
This point is established upon the theological principle that YHWH repays people according to their deeds. In this life, you reap what you sow. This theological principle is established in several places in the Bible. From an OT perspective, a great passage for this theological principle is Duet 28. Turn with me there. This whole passage teaches this idea. I’m not going to read it in full. Start in v. 1 with me.
“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God.
What follows is those blessings. Now look down at v. 15. Just as God will bless those who obey, he will also curse those who disobey.
“But if you will not obey the voice of the LORD your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.”
This concept of blessings for obedience and curses runs through all throughout Scripture. It’s in the OT and it’s in the NT. Now with this in mind, turn to Ruth 1:16.
The story of Ruth is a story of the fulfillment of this principle of God rewarding the faithful. Particularly, God’s blessing to Ruth because of her faithfulness. Ruth’s faithfulness begins in Ruth 1:16 with Ruth’s confession. This is what she says:
But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”
Here is the first expression of Ruth’s faithfulness to Naomi and to YHWH. This can be read as her moment of “conversion,” her turning from idols to the one true God. Throughout the whole story, she keeps this confession. Throughout the whole story, Ruth is faithful to Naomi and YHWH.
Now turn to Ruth 2:11. Here we have the principle of God’s blessings towards Ruth arise. Listen to what Boaz says:
But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!”
Here we see God’s blessing for Ruth begin to transpire. This is a prayer/prophecy. Boaz requests this for Ruth. Boaz doesn’t know that he will be Ruth’s blessing, though. YHWH will repay Ruth for her faithfulness.
Now turn to Ruth 4:11. This continues the development of the God’s blessing of Ruth. Look what the people say to Boaz about Ruth:
Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, “We are witnesses. May the LORD make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem, and may your house be like the house of Perez,
whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring that the LORD will give you by this young woman.”
What we see here is a development, an escalation of the prayer/prophecy given by Boaz towards Ruth in Ruth 2. Boaz mentioned a “full reward” being given to Ruth by YHWH. Now we have the people prophesying through their prayer that Ruth would become like Rachel and Leah, the matriarchs of Israel, that Boaz’s house would become famous like Judah’s son, Perez.
Well what do you know? This prayer/prophecy is fulfilled. God overcomes Ruth’s former bareness that was mentioned in Ruth 1:4 and blessed her with a son in 4:13. We just read that passage,
So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son.
Who was this son? Look in 4:17.
And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi. They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.”
And who did Obed descend from and end up becoming like? Perez.
Now these are the generations of Perez.
As a King, as the ruler and commander of the universe, God keeps his word. He kept his word to Ruth. As he said in Deut 28, he will bless the obedient.
This idea is not karma or “what goes around comes around.” The Bible knows nothing of randomness, or some impersonal force rewarding people based upon their deeds.
Further, this is not justification by works. Some evangelicals don’t know how to theological interpret works. And they interpret any notion of reward for good works as an invalidation of justification by faith. That is not the case. Faith and works go together. God produces in us faith and works, and subsequently blesses us for obedience. That’s the idea here.
The world is ruled by a benevolent God who is faithful to his word. He raises up people and brings them down. God used Ruth because of her faithfulness. God keeps his word. He blesses the faithful. In you suffering, stay faithful. God will see to it that he blesses you.
God is King because He Provides a King
Our last point this morning is this: “God is King because He Provides a King.”
Last Word of Ruth 4
To begin this point, look at the very last verse of Ruth 4. In the English text and in the Hebrew text, the last word is “David.” This is not just any OT figure. This is maybe the central figure of the OT—king David. Now remember how the story began. It began with a reference to the period of the Judges. As we saw at the end of Judges, during this time there was no king. Next, remember what happened to Elimelech, the man who’s name means “My God is King.” He died. So the problem that the book begins with—there is no king, “My God is King” is dead—is addressed at the very end of the book. The book ends with the answer to the book—a king. God is King because he provides King David.
More than David
King David is not the true King who God will establish. We have a perspective that was not available to the original audience of Ruth. David ends up dying. The true king who God the Father provides is the Messiah, an eternal king. There are several OT passages that prophecy that a coming King who supersedes David. Several. We cannot look at all of them this morning. So, I’ve chose to be selective with them. I will provide just one.
Turn to Micah 5:2. I will read through v. 5. The passage reads,
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock yin the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace.
There are a couple of interesting points of this passage.
First, notice that 5:2 speaks of a ruler coming from Bethlehem Ephrathah. That is what the book of Ruth states where Elimelech came from. That is David’s identity. We get that information from Ruth. So, in some ways, this coming king will be like David.
Second, notice that while this passage speaks of a king, it speaks of a type of king that neither David nor any other human king could fulfill. Verse 2b states that this king will have an origin that is different from purely human rulers. It reads,
whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.
This text hints at a pre-existence of this king, one who existed before he existed on earth. This cannot apply to a purely human king. Third, notice the dominion of this King. We read that this king will have cosmic rule. Look at v. 4. It reads,
And he shall stand and shepherd his flock yin the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.
This King cannot be David. What Ruth tells us about God providing David is a foretaste of what is to come—an eternal King, who is the Messiah, who is Jesus Christ.
Revelation 22:12 & 16
Jesus Christ, our savior, our Lord, is what Ruth 4 is pointing towards. David is not an end in himself. Jesus is the end. He is the completion. He is God incarnate. His is the Davidic Messiah. Turn to Rev 22:12 to explore this point.
This is what the last chapter of the Bible tells us. It wraps together Jesus as King and Jesus as a Son of David. For the first point, Jesus as King, let’s read 22:12–13. It states,
Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.
Jesus is King. As YWHW did in Deut 28, he will repay each one according to their works. He is the one who reward the faithful and damn the wicked. Further, he is “Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” This means he is King. He is exalted. His beginning is from the ancient of Days (alpha) and he has no end (omega).
For the point of him as a son of David, look at Rev 22:16. It reads,
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
God the Father, as King, has provided us with his Son. His Son he has made the true Davidic king. What Ruth 4:22 anticipates with David, Jesus Christ fulfills. He is the one who was foretold, he is the one who reigns, he is the one who all of human history is about—especially Ruth 4. God is King because he has provided a King.
For the Unfaithful
For those who are not Christian, who are apathetic to God’s law and his word, God’s kingship should not be a comfort to you. In fact, that God is in control of all things, that he is faithful to his word should be a terror to you. That should strike fear in your heart, not comfort. You are an enemy of the King. Wow. What a terrifying thought.
This week I listened to a song I would like to share with you. The title of the song is “God’s Gonna Cut You down.” This version of the song is sung by Johnny Cash. Listen to the lyrics.
“You can run on for a long time Run on for a long time Run on for a long time Sooner or later God'll cut you down Sooner or later God'll cut you down Go tell that long tongue liar Go and tell that midnight rider Tell the rambler The gambler The back biter Tell 'em that God's gonna cut 'em down Tell 'em that God's gonna cut 'em down . . . Well, you may throw your rock and hide your hand Workin' in the dark against your fellow man But as sure as God made black and white What's down in the dark will be brought to the light
God is King. For the non-Christian, this is of no comfort to you. You are a rebel who God will punish one day. Stop your wicked ways. Bow your knee to Jesus Christ. Confess that you are a rebel who deserves destruction. Ask Jesus to save you. Cry out to him. He can save you.
For the Faithful
For those who are Christians, for those who are faithful, that God is king should be of great comfort to you. He is in control of your life. He is faithful. Your suffering is not in vain. While you might not understand. He is enough for you in the pain. He is in control, will reward your faithfulness, and has provided Jesus Christ for you. Hang on in your suffering. Persevere in it. Have hope. Nothing that happens to you is outside the will of your heavenly Father. Be found faithful to him in the difficulty, in the suffering. Have hope that he can use your suffering for his eternal purposes. Look to Jesus Christ, the suffering King, who reigns and will return one day to rescue you from your enemies and your sin. Jesus is King!