God's Promise of Redemption
In times of difficulty like the political and racial division of our country, times of disease during our current pandemic of COVID-19, as well as disasters and bitter cold like this past week of SNOWVID21, each of us faces a decision. Henri Nouwen says it this way, “When there is a reason for gratitude, there can always be a reason for bitterness. It is here that we are faced with the freedom to make a decision. We can decide to be grateful or to be bitter.” What will you choose? Thankfulness or bitterness?
In the book of Ruth, though she was bitter before, Naomi now had restored hope in hopeless times. God had promised to bless His people with many descendants (Genesis 12:1-3). She began to see how God’s promise of redemption was beginning to unfold through Boaz as a potential kinsman-redeemer. In the responses of Boaz to Ruth (Ruth 3:1-11), we see how the Lord Jesus responds to us when we seek Him and trust in Him as our Redeemer.
The story of Ruth is deeply rooted in the covenants and culture of the Old Testament. From the very beginning of the Scriptures, when God began to work with His people of Israel. The Abrahamic covenant marks a transition in Genesis’ account of God’s initiated redemption of the world (Genesis 12:1–3, 7; 13:14–17; 15:4–21; 17:4–16; 22:15–18). Initially made to the patriarch while he was still under the name Abram (“exalted father”; 12:1–3; 13:14–18), the promise would later be expanded to the people of the world in such a way as to necessitate a change of title: Abram becomes Abraham (“father of many”; 17:5–8).
God always reminded the Israelites of two things He covenanted with them. God told Israel they were a special people, set apart from all the other nations. God told Israel that they had a special place He had prepared for them. Even today that’s true. There’s a place called Israel at the very center of everything that’s going on in the world. And there is a people—the Jews—spread throughout the earth. In the book of Ruth, there is a continuation of God’s promise to His people concerning a place and a people.
In order for us to cross some cultural barriers to understand this section of God’s Word, two words need to be explained:
- The first word is yābām, יָבָם, meaning “deceased husband’s brother” or “brother-in-law.” In the OT, in order to preserve the people of Israel, the brother of a man who had died without children would marry the deceased man’s wife, and the first child born in that relationship would perpetuate the name of the man who had died. This was known as a levirate marriage. Deuteronomy 25:5-6 instructed the Jews:
5 “When brothers live on the same property and one of them dies without a son, the wife of the dead man may not marry a stranger outside the family. Her brother-in-law is to take her as his wife, have sexual relations with her, and perform the duty of a brother-in-law for her. 6 The first son she bears will carry on the name of the dead brother, so his name will not be blotted out from Israel.
- The second word is go’el (גָּאַל), translated “redeemer.” The go’el was an extended family member who was to act as the redeemer of persons or property. We find this in Leviticus 25:25-28:
25 If your brother becomes destitute and sells part of his property, his nearest relative may come and redeem what his brother has sold. 26 If a man has no family redeemer, but he prospers and obtains enough to redeem his land, 27 he may calculate the years since its sale, repay the balance to the man he sold it to, and return to his property. 28 But if he cannot obtain enough to repay him, what he sold will remain in the possession of its purchaser until the Year of Jubilee. It is to be released at the Jubilee, so that he may return to his property.
Every Jewish family had a piece of property that was theirs by virtue of their inheritance, and the Scriptures taught that even if a person became totally poor and lost everything he had, a member of the family was supposed to buy that property back on his behalf until the year of Jubilee (an observance in which every seven years, Jews got back everything they had lost). So when a person lost his property, one of the family members—the goel (גָּאַל), the redeemer—would buy it back so that family would not lose its inheritance.
So just as the yābām יָבָם perpetuated the people, the go’el (גָּאַל), perpetuated the property, the place.
In the book of Ruth, we see God’s promise for a special people and a special place unfold through the relationship of Boaz, the redeemer, and Ruth, in need of redemption.
What if God wants to use you as a friend in the lives of others? What if His design and His desire is to use you in the life of another person and other people? What if following Jesus actually requires selflessly, sacrificially giving of yourself for the benefit of others? At a time when many of us are dealing with social distancing and isolation, even this week during a winter storm, it’s easy to lose track of actively working to be a kind and tenderhearted Christ-like friend to others.
In the book of Ruth (Ruth 2:10-23), God began to weave the lives of three people together – bringing each of them to the right place at the right time to meet the needs of each other. Here’s the biblical principle we’ll see in action: The Lord uses Christ-like relationships to meet our needs – and the needs of others – as His children. Let’s look at the lives of Boaz, Ruth, and Naomi, people that God used to encourage each other. What was it about each of them that made them available to be used in each other’s lives? More importantly, what do we need to notice through the development of this biblical story? How can God use us, how can God use you, to meet the needs of others?
God's Plans for Our Good
At the age of 25, Samuel Truett opened a 24-hour diner, the Dwarf Grill, in the Hapeville, GA that eventually grew into a thriving business. He loved serving people. He had a heart for young people. Most of all, Samuel had a heart for God. In the marketplace he may be known as the inventor of the chicken sandwich, but Samuel Truett Cathy’s success as the founder of Chick-fil-A simply gave him the opportunity to serve people and point them to Christ.
Through godly people like S. Truett Cathy and Boaz in the Book of Ruth, God faithfully provides for us in a way that He has planned and prepared for us (Ruth 1:22-2:12).
In 1915, swarms of boll weevil insects destroyed two-thirds of the cotton crop in the Deep South of Alabama. It completely devastated the economy. But the infestation actually forced local Alabama farmers to try something new. They planted a different crop the boll weevil couldn’t harm: peanuts. By 1919, the Wiregrass region produced more peanuts than any other in the U.S. bringing in millions of dollars to the local economy. Plus, peanuts were easier to harvest than cotton. To those who lived through the agricultural disaster, the boll weevil was the best thing that could have happened.
In the story of Ruth and Naomi (Ruth 1:18-22), we realize how God uses afflictions to cause our return to fellowship with him. Personal afflictions are the real blessings when they help us discover a relationship with a Good God who wants us to love Him and live with Him. Pain has a purpose. Afflictions can be affirming.
Decisions of Faith
Life is composed of so many choices. Some decisions in life are arbitrary – like choosing what you wore to church today – pants or pjs. Some decisions are important – like buying a car or a home. And a few life decisions can be defining: decisions about following Jesus, decisions about marriage, decisions about your career – these critical, life defining decisions of faith require loyal love and consistent character.
In the book of Ruth (Ruth 1:14-19) two young women, Orpah and Ruth, are faced with a major, life-defining moment, and each of them makes a decision that determines their future. In the same way, our defining decisions today will impact our future forever. Difficult life decisions require commitment based on loyal love. Eternal decisions require faith in Jesus Christ alone.
Three Steps Back to God
The first 17 days of 2021 have been deeply troubling. There seems to be much fear, great anger, and a quickly escalating conflict. Where do we find hope in hopeless times? Who do we turn to when we feel helpless? How do we live with such heaviness?
What do we need to do? What Naomi did (Ruth 1:6-7). She repented. Repentance is a complete change from trusting anything or anyone to trusting God alone. Repentance is turning from independence from God to total dependence upon Him. Naomi repented of her independent spirit when life was out of control. She took three steps back to trusting the Spirit of God alone. Repentance to God leads to new hope and a new life.
Hope for Hopeless Times
This past week – in our nation and in our lives – has been another seemingly unprecedented week. I’m saddened by the polarizing words of politicians and sickened by the violent actions of protesters in our nation’s capital on Wednesday (January 6, 2021). I’m grieving for our nation and the lives of those forever changed. We’re also in the middle of a pandemic that has lasted longer than we imagined and caused more division than we ever dreamed. Many of us are wondering, how did it come to this? What’s next? The days feel dark and uncertain.
As the story of Ruth begins, we find a scene similar to ours today filled with political turmoil, personal trials, and painful tragedies (Ruth 1:1-5). The book of Ruth encourages God’s people to remain faithful to His Word and obedient to His Will to rejoice in His blessings. The book of Ruth encourages believers to find their hope in God in hopeless times.
Trusting God in 2021
Sometimes trusting God is really hard – especially when life is really hard. Why should we trust God during difficult days? How do we trust Him when life, relationships, circumstances don’t turn out the way we expect they should?
Trust begins with knowing God. Faithful is word God uses to describe himself in Exodus 34:6.“The Lord—the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in loyal love and faithful truth.” Exodus 34:6
Sunday Service Times
Communion Worship Service in English (Auditorium)
K- Grade 5: Children enjoy worship service in the main auditorium with their families. Children will be dismissed to Children's Church midway through the service.
Servicio de Adoración en Español
11:00 am (Student Ministry Building)