What Love Can Do

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What Love Can Do
Text: Ruth 1:1-22
Occasion: General
Audience: Adult
Theological Tradition: General
Topic: Theodicy, Providence, Love
Author: George Lyons


God is at work in even the worst circumstances of our life, through the people around us and the seemingly ordinary things of life.

How to Get There

  • The story of Ruth is set in a time of absolute chaos, both social and religious, Judges 21:25 is the key refrain from this time period and it is within this frame that the book of Ruth occurs.
  • And personally, Naomi's entire life collapses. She loses her country, her support, her home, her husband, and even her children.
  • All of this had made Naomi bitter, she feels abandoned by her God. And it only makes sense for us to ask what Naomi might have been asking “where is God in this?”
  • She finds God's love in the most unlikely place, her daughters in law from a pagan religion and a different culture. Ruth showed her love above and beyond anything she had a right to expect. That love continues through what she gets from Boaz, who gives Ruth more and better than she could have expected too.
  • And through this all, God is always in the background, in the greetings, in the blessings people give, and in the seeming coincidences that keep happening as God directs the events.
  • And these acts of kindness begin to turn Naomi's spirit around Ruth 2:19-20. And in the end, a new son is born to Naomi, through Ruth Ruth 4:13-17. The family has new life. God has come through.
  • God is the key to this story, but God is in the wings for the entire sequence of events, never in the spotlight, never with huge events. This is just one small family's problems in Israel.
  • God here does not act intermittently in this story, or in big acts, but continuously. God leads them to food in famine. God leads Ruth to leave her God and cling to Naomi. God is at work in Boaz' heart. God works in the redeemer to turn down his rights. God makes Ruth able to conceive. God is constantly at work in this story, and in history.
  • God is most visible in this book through the prayers of the people, and every one of those prayers is fulfilled by the end of the book, by the people's own loving actions.
  • God is at work, but is seen through the actions of God's servants, and especially through loving-kindness, the covenant loyalty that goes beyond expectations.
  • That kind of love is risky. Everyone risked a lot in what they did, from Ruth leaving Maob to Boaz taking Ruth as his wife. It took courage for them to act like they did. They prayed, and then let God work through them in our actions. We need to be willing to show the same courage and love in our actions, so God can work through us.
  • Almost everyone here has experienced tragedy and pain like what Naomi felt, pain that can make you bitter and broken inside. But what was true for Naomi is true for you, “when you come to the end of your rope, remember God is at the other end.”
    • God really is working for our good and God's purpose, even if we can't see it right now.
    • And if God's purpose is for us to be like Christ, then we shouldn't be surprised if we encounter a cross on our way there.

This message was originally written by Dr. George Lyons, converted to this format by Brian M.

Things to Watch For

  • Be aware of the use of the names in this story, they are important to explain more of what is happening.
    • Bethlehem is the “house of bread” and they left it because of famine.
    • Naomi and Elimelech have very promising, hopeful names, but their children are called “sick” and “dying.”
    • Ruth means “refreshing” and Orphah “rebellious” as different as their personalities.
    • These names are not coincidences, this was a very bad time for the people.
  • This is a book of dialogue and conversation, a continuous story that is hard to break apart. Before preaching anything from this book make sure you can paraphrase and retell the entire story easily as many people probably will not be familiar with it.
  • This message hinges on the six prayers people make in the book of Ruth. Make sure to know those prayers and how they are fulfilled.
  • Make sure to understand the role of “chesed” in this story. It is far more than simply fulfilling one's duty, but going beyond just the requirements of duty because of love.

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