Boaz takes Ruth as his wife and their first child, Obed, is born. Pastor Mark illuminates our understanding of this great love story by bringing it back to Jesus, our great Redeemer, who is eventually born through the line of this godly couple.
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. 14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! 15 He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” 16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. 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.
18 Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, 19 Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, 20 Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, 21 Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, 22 Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.
You’re listening to Redeeming Ruth: A sermon series following the events from the Book of Ruth, presented by Pastor Mark Driscoll. Follow this wonderfully written story of the redemption to be found in Jesus and his people. And learn how it applies to everyday people today. This is a presentation of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. For more information, go to marshillchurch.org.
“So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. And he went into her and the Lord her gave her conception and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi: ‘Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer. And may his name be renowned in Israel. He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.’ Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap, and became his nurse. 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. Now, these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz father Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.”
Good evening Mars Hill. You guys ready to finish the Book of Ruth? You’ve got your Bible; you can go to Ruth Chapter 4, we’ll finish the book this week. We’ve taken six weeks to study, this is the last, and concluding week and it is one of the greatest love stories in all the Scripture. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. This week they get hitched and make babies, so it’s all good.
So, as you’re turning there, one thing I would ask you to be in prayer for, in particular for this campus, is a bigger building. As you guys know, the last few weeks we have outgrown this building at our five and 7 p.m. service. A lot of vampires have come to know Christ at the 7:00 service, and this place is totally packed out. So, we are frantically searching for more seats, and hoping that God would answer that prayer with something miraculous. So, please join us for that, we don’t want to have to turn people away. So, I’ll go ahead and pray and we’ll get right to work. If you’ve got a Bible, go there, if not you should be able to follow along either way, and it’s good to have you with us, so thanks a bunch for joining us.
Father, we begin as always by thanking you for being such a loving, good, and gracious God. We thank you for the story of Ruth and Boaz in Scripture. It is my prayer, God, as we study today, that we would see through this wonderful story of redemption something of the redemption that has been wrought for the bride of Christ, the church, by the Lord Jesus himself. And, God, we invite you, Holy Spirit, to come to, instruct, and convict, and to encourage and enable us as you wish, because we trust you and we love you and we submit ourselves to you. God, I thank you for the honor it is to teach the scriptures with these people and I pray that by your grace and through Spirit, I would be able to do so accurately as I ask this privilege in Jesus’ good name. Amen.
I’ll catch you up to speed. If you’re new, maybe you slept through the first few weeks of the series, I understand. I’ll catch you up to speed with the story. It takes place about 1,000 years before the birth of Jesus in a time called the Time of the Judges, which is just dark, violent, rebellious, perverted, and it’s recorded in the Book of Judges. It’s a hundred year cycle of disobedience among God’s people – a very, very sad time to be honest with you.
The story then narrows into a particular town called Bethlehem, which means House of Bread, and then more narrowly focuses in on one particular family in Bethlehem, a family headed by a man named Elimelech, whose name means “My God is King”. He’s got a wife named Naomi; her name means “Sweet” or “Pleasant”. They’ve got two sons, Mahlon and Chilion. And then, we are told that famine hits this town that is called The House of Bread, because it is so lush with greenery, it is so ripe with harvest, it appears that God has withheld his blessing, and is seeking to chastise and discipline his people for their sin and rebellion to bring them to repentance.
In the midst of the famine, rather than dealing with the underlying spiritual issues and causes, Elimelech, as the head of his family, makes a tragic decision to relocate his family. And of all the places on earth he could have chosen, he chose a town called Moab. The name is derived from a very sad scenario in the Book of Genesis where a young woman went to bed with her father. Through that incestuous relationship, they gave birth to a son named Moab, and the Moabites and the Town of Moab descend from that sick situation with Lot and his daughter.
The Moabites worship the false God, Chemosh; they don’t worship the God of the Bible. They also are very perverted people – very confused – they’re kind of Seattleite in all they are and do. And so, rather than going to a place where they love God, he goes there, not as a missionary to share the love of God, but instead just moves there. There’s no church, no Bible Study, no friends that love God, and eventually his sons get to the point where they want to marry. They’re of that age – there’s no Godly women to marry, so they ended up marrying two Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. And then, the story gets even bleaker and darker as the Elimelech dies, and then not long thereafter, his two sons, Mahlon and Chilion also die. These men were not good head of homes, they didn’t have the equivalent of life insurance, or a nest egg, or something to take care of their wives. And so, the wives are left both widowed and destitute in their poverty.
And so now, the story is as dark as it could be. A funeral that leaves childless and penniless women as widows. And Naomi and Ruth and Orpah are together trying to sort out what they should now do. Their lives have been devastated through this series of tragedies. The very reason that they moved to Moab was to avoid death and that’s exactly what they experienced. Then, there is a bit of encouragement, though. And we hear that the Lord has begun blessing his people back in Bethlehem, that there is harvest in the field, there is hope in the heart. And so, Naomi resolves in her mind that perhaps she should return to Bethlehem, her hometown, because if God is blessing his people and she goes there, perhaps God would have favor on her and bless her as well.
And so, she makes the trip, some 50 miles to Bethlehem, takes with her Orpah and Ruth, her two daughters-in-law. And along the way it dawns on her that she really has nothing to offer them. She has no sons, she has no job, she has no income, she has no support, she really doesn’t have anything for these young women. So, she encourages them to return home, which Orpah does, goes back to the worship of Chemosh and her false God and her old way of life. Ruth, however, has a very real conversion experience where she decides that God really does love her and she really does love God. And that she wants to live her life worshiping God. She wants to go to church and Bible Study and prayer group, and she wants to have Christian friends, and she’s willing to leave, which is an act of repentance, her whole entire old way of life and go to her new life in Bethlehem with God and his people.
And so, the two women journey to Bethlehem together and they arrive, and all of the women, who have been friends with Naomi some years prior, come up and ask her, “Naomi, how are you doing?” And she says, “I went away with my hands full. I have come back with my hands empty. Do not call me Naomi, which means ‘sweet’, call me Mara, which means ‘bitter’. The Lord has dealt very bitterly with me. I’m a very angry, unhappy, upset, bitter older woman.” I believe in that she’s confessing her state. She is crying out to her friends in church for help and accountability and prayer and support, but she’s in a very dark place at a very dark time, in very dark circumstances.
Sadly, people didn’t help, church, family, friends didn’t pitch in, and we see in Chapter 2 that the two women are literally penniless and they have nothing to eat. They’re in a desperate situation. So, Ruth looks at her mother-in-law, Naomi, and asks permission to go glean the fields; this would have been a dangerous move. The people who would work in the fields were, according to Leviticus law, supposed to leave some food for the poor to come and glean. It’s the equivalent of the food bank, or the soup kitchen, or the homeless shelter in that day. And in asking permission, she is taking a great risk of faith, because that’s a very dangerous thing for a new woman to do in a new town. Nonetheless, she trusts that God that will give her favor in someone’s eyes – she’s a woman of great faith.
And she ventures out into the field, and then we see that she ends up in the field of Boaz, and this is again, the introduction of the theme of the Book, which is the providential hand of God. That God works through two hands, his visible hand of miracles, and his invisible hand of providence. And through his hand of providence, God works out people, and circumstances, and relationships, and times, and places in which we live, so that there is no chance, happenstance, or circumstance, it’s providence. And through providence, we are told that she ends up, just so happens, of all the fields, in the field of a brother named Boaz, who happens to be rich – love God – and needs a wife. And she just happens to need a husband and he just happens to see her, speak to her, bless her, pray for her, take her out on a little first date, give her a nice bit to eat, it looks like love is in the air.
He offers her a job for the remainder of harvest season, which is six or seven weeks, and then for six or seven weeks Boaz does nothing, like so many men, he doesn’t know what to do with a woman. He just does not know. No cards, no email, no flowers, no text message, no coffee – nothing. Time is running out. At the end of harvest they’ll go their separate ways – this is a temp job – oh, no. So, Naomi, being the older woman that she is, comes up with a plan, she’s got wise counsel. She tells Ruth, “He’s only seeing you funkified in the field, all sweaty and pitted out and muddy. You need to get all dolled up and girlie up, and then get in front of him and see what he thinks of that. Maybe he’ll marry you then.”
So, she does as told. She takes a bath; she shaves her pits, because she looks like she’s got Don King in a headlock. She shaves her legs – oh, come on – and she gets her hair foiled and she gets on her make-up and she gets a new dress and she goes tanning and she just looks great, she smells great. And Naomi tells her, “Now, when you go there, out to the party on the threshing floor,” because the harvest is in, the famine is lifted, everybody’s in a great mood, there’s a big celebration of God, she says, “Whatever you do, it’s all about timing.” Ladies, write this down. It’s all about timing. Don’t just walk up, [sobbing incoherently] don’t do that – don’t do that. That’s like kryptonite to a man, you know, it just – it doesn’t work.
Instead, she says, “Let him eat his chicken wings, have a few Mac & Jacks, let him throw some darts, shoot some pool, watch the game on the big screen, let him enjoy time with his boys. It’s biblical – it’s biblical – it’s all biblical, okay? We’re putting the fun back into fundamentalist up here at Mars Hill, that’s what we’re doing. And then, once he’s, you know, had a few drinks, eaten his dinner, and he’s had fun with the boys, then move in for the kill, because it’s all about the timing. So, she waits until he is sleeping at the foot of the pile of grain protecting his harvest and his income from thieves. And then, she take this big crazy spooky risk at midnight, snuggles up to his feet at the end of his sleeping bag. Boaz wakes up freaked out, “Who’s there,” “It’s me, Ruth,” – can’t really do that so good. I don’t have a girl voice, Praise God.
Now – and she tells him, basically, “I love you and I want to be with you,” and she doesn’t propose, but she proposes that he propose, that’s what she proposes. And in this we learn, ladies, don’t chase a man, but get in his way – get in his way. Get all dolled up, because men are looking for a wife, and if you get in his way, even if he’s stupid, he could figure that out. “I need a girl. There’s a girl,” there you go. All right. There you go. So, that’s what she does, and Boaz is shocked, “You want to be with me?” He’s not that young. He’s a little older. He doesn’t look that great. He doesn’t have a six pack. He’s got a cooler. You know, he’s not the hottest looking dude, and he says, “Well, you’re young and cute and I’m not that young or cute, but if you want to be with me, that’s fine,” so he goes for the deal.
So, then Boaz says, “Oh, no. I don’t have the right to marry you. There’s another guy who’s in first position, and legally he’s got a right to marry you – we got to dump him. We got to dump this other guy – we got to get him out of the way, so that I can marry you, because I do love you, and I do want to be married to you, and let’s live happily ever after and make the Song of Solomon sing again. Let’s do that,” there again, I’m extrapolating. Now – so, what happens then, they don’t have any intimate relations, they don’t move in together, there’s no friends with benefits, there’s nothing like that. He keeps his hands off her and waits to be married. Next day he gets up and goes into town and sits by the gate. He’s hoping that this guy will come by, so he can talk to him about getting into first position, redeeming Naomi, Ruth, and the land, and it just so happens in God’s providence, Mr. What’s-his-face, he’s not given a name, because he’s not a great guy. He comes by, Boaz shrewdly negotiates with him, gets permission to redeem the land, Ruth, and Naomi. Gets the right legally and biblically to marry Ruth – finally, they get to be married.
And this week we’ll deal with the wedding. But, let me give you a short excursus on marriage. Genesis 1 and 2, “God made us male and female,” okay? And God said, “It’s not good for the man to be,” what? Alone. All the men knew that. Alone – it is not good to be alone. And I am a married man; I concur. Now, so God’s answer was, “A woman,” Seattle’s late to the game, still needing to catch up with this, but a man is good to have a woman. Notice they even, sort of, sound alike. They’re made for each other. So, God makes the man, says it’s not good to be alone. First thing the Scripture says is not good is “It’s not good for the man to be alone.” God creates the woman – brings the woman, providentially, to the man, they meet, they fall in love, they get married.
It is God who creates us, male and female. It is God who creates marriage for males and females. And then, they consummate their covenant, and those are the two aspects of biblical marriage, covenant and consummation. They consummate their marriage, it says, “That the two become one flesh.” That little word there is very interesting; it is the Hebrew word echad and the man and the woman become one – echad. In the same way that Deuteronomy Chapter 6 Verse 4, The shema, which Orthodox Jews, to this day, say three times a day is, “Hear O Israel: The LORD our God – he is one.” He is echad. And the word means a few become a singular. That a plural become one, okay?
And God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit, the Trinitarian God of the Bible, which we believe in, as there is one God and three persons, Father, Son, and Spirit. In the marriage covenant that is consummated, the husband and wife become one, as God is one. This is God’s illustration of the Trinity. Some people don’t understand the Trinity. The Bible teaches that there is one god and three persons, Father, Son, and the Spirit. My kids are really theological and they ask me all kinds of questions and one of them was, “Dad, could you explain the Trinity to us?”
Our son, Zac, he’s three, for example, my daughter, Ashley is nine and they asked me this question. They said, “Can you explain it to us,” so I explain it, “It’s one God and three persons, but it’s one God.” And they said, “What’s that like,” and I said, “Well, it’s kind of like me and your mom,” I said, “Your mom and I, how many are there?” They said, “Well, there’s two of you,” I said, “But, really how many,” they said, “One.” One last name, one God, one church, one theology, one house, one bed, one vacation, one bank account, right, we’re one – we’re one.
So, in a loving, committed, consummated, covenantal marriage, we get a little imperfect picture, admittedly, of what the Trinitarian God is like. Love, communication, intimacy, trust, there is some distinction, but there is absolute, in every way, oneness. And what we’re going to see this week is that it was not good for Boaz to be alone, and so God made Ruth and God brought Ruth to Boaz, just as God brought Eve to Adam. And that God intends for them to be married as man and woman. To have a covenant that is also consummated, so that they can be fruitful, multiply, increase the number, fill the earth, subdue it, make babies.
I’ll read Verse 13. Are you ready? “So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife.” Finally, they get married. I’ll tell you what; the greatest gift that God gives is salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. The second greatest gift that God gives a man is a wife – is a wife, especially a wife like Ruth. Proverbs says, “She is a crown,” not a cancer. It says that in Proverbs, “Some women are like a crown on their husband’s heads, others are like decay in his bones,” okay. It’s not that you men just want to be married; you want to be married to a crown, not a cancer. Ruth is a crown. And I want you ladies to be encouraged. She didn’t start off as a crown; she started off as a Moabite worshiping Chemosh, probably sexually active, from a bad family in a horrible town. Her husband died, she was barren, maybe not even able to have children, she didn’t know. And not a virgin, new to town, flat broke, new convert.
But, she loved God, because God loved her, and her heart changed toward God and she lived a life of repentance, and holiness, and faithfulness, and character, and because of that, she was a wonderful wife. And in that, I want all of you ladies to understand, it really doesn’t matter where you come from or what you’ve done, if you meet Jesus everything can and will change. And that you can have a horrible situation, as Ruth did, and you can have a wonderful conclusion, as Ruth does. The story opens with her at a funeral. It doesn’t get any sadder than that. It opens with her at a funeral as an unbelieving woman, and it concludes with her as a beloved, believing wife who worships the God of the Bible, and that’s a beautiful story of redemption.
And for those of you who have been with us, you’ve seen her in Chapter 1 go from a foreigner, to Chapter 2 being a lowly servant, Chapter 3, a servant, and now in Chapter 4, a beloved bride – a wife. And I’ll tell you what, there is nothing like your wedding day. I met my wife when we were 17, I married her when we were 21, it was between our junior and senior year of college. I can still remember our wedding day. I pull down our wedding photos quite often and just look at them and kind of giggle – silly. And I do it with my kids, my daughters, especially. They always want to sit down and look at the wedding photos with me, my two girls.
And I can still remember being up on the platform, I remember the doors opening and I remember seeing Grace coming to be my wife. She just looked amazing. She had the best smile I’ve – I mean, I just remember the look on her face; she was glad and so was I – delighted to marry her. It hasn’t been all easy, it hasn’t been without difficulties, it hasn’t been without redemption, but she is my gift from God, as Ruth was Boaz’s gift from God, and they got married. I want you to aspire to marriage; I want you to have that on your horizon of life, as it were. I know that so many of you in this last late service are single. I know that not all of you will marry, but, statistically, more than 90 percent of you will. And I want you to have hope and a dream on your horizon, if it includes marriage we would say, then, Praise be to God. That you ladies want to be like Ruth and marry a man like Boaz, that you men want to be like Boaz and marry a woman like Ruth.
And they get married – most wonderful thing in the world. I tell you, one of the things I love about Mars Hill, we have a few hundred weddings a year – we have a few hundred weddings a year.
And they then consummate their covenant. They have sexual relations for the very first time – very first time. We would encourage you to not be sexually active until you’re married, and then make up for lost time. That would be our official position. You know what I’m talking about. If you already have been sexually active, Jesus died for those sins, he will forgive you, and you can have a clean, new life of holiness. And if you are here and you are remaining chaste, then we would say, Praise be to God. You want to be chaste until marriage; you want to be faithful in marriage. That’s what you want.
And we live in stupid culture, if I might just say that, to where people try to get as much sex as they can, and then get married, thinking that somehow that will make the marriage better. Let me assure you of this, when you get married and you go to bed with your spouse, if they’re really, really, really good, that’s really, really, really scary, because that means that they have been practicing with a wide number of other people. And they are now going to compare you to those other people. And they’re gonna have thoughts and experiences and considerations that are not you.
The way the Bible says it is this, God made one man, one woman, brought them together. They were one another’s standard of beauty. They have no physical relations until they were married, and so their standard of sexual intimacy and appropriateness was in their marriage. That is ideal. I sinned and I was not that guy, but I wish I was. I didn’t know Jesus until I was 19, and I was sexually active before that. That’s probably the greatest regret of my whole life. But, a buddy of mine, who’s a new Christian in college, he was engaged to be married, he had a great line. He was debating, arguing with some guys who were giving him a hard time, he was a virgin, his wife was a virgin. They loved Jesus. They’d saved themselves until they were married.
And I remember somebody asked him one of the, you know, dumb college guy questions, “Well, if you haven’t slept with her, how do you know she’s any good in bed?” And he said, “I’ve never touched any woman, how will I know if she’s bad?” That’s a good point right there. If you’ve never touched a woman, anything seems pretty cool. I mean, really, and how nice is it to be the wife that doesn’t have to live up to the expectations of the sum total of all the previous experiences? “I just know my husband loves me, he’s only been with me. And as far as he knows this is the best.” And it is the best, because it’s covenantal and it’s consummated.
And here, Boaz is gonna sleep with his wife, and I want you to see that the Bible isn’t ashamed to talk about sex, it just does so in the context of marriage, so that it’s honorable and pure and good. “And he went in to her,” first time they sleep together, on their honeymoon, “And the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son.” She had been previously married for how long? Ten years. How many kids did she have? Zero. Wedding night, what does she get? Pregnant. I mean, that’s a big day. I got married and pregnant today. That’s a big day. They get a honeymoon baby, that’s awesome. And it’s the Lord who opened her womb.
These are the thematic bookends of Ruth. Chapter 1, God gave a harvest; Chapter 4, God gave a baby. First and last chapters, what does it show, that every good and perfect gift comes from God. Like, James says, “That God is good and he does bless and he does provide and he does give.” And let me say this, some of you may, or may at one point, struggle with infertility and such. Some of my dearest friends have – they get married, they want to have kids and for whatever reason they can’t conceive or carry to term. My wife also had a miscarriage, we’ve got five kids; otherwise, we’d be at six. We’re not against doctors and medical treatment and all of that, but we would say, make sure that you pray, pray, pray, because ultimately, as we study the whole Bible, it’s God who opens and closes wombs, and enables children to be conceived.
I’ll give you a story on this – this is why you got to let family, friends, coworkers, us, your church, know if you’re struggling with infertility, so we can pray for you. I was up in my office a little over a year ago and I was between services. I think it was between the 5:00 and this service, and God spoke to me and said, “Open the door and pray for them.” So, I opened the door and there’s a couple standing there. I said, “Hey, guys. What am I supposed to pray about? God told me I needed to pray for you right now.” And she started balling, she said, “We came upstairs looking for a pastor to pray for us,” see, I’m a Calvinist, so I’m like, “This is why I’m a Calvinist. Things like this happen all the time.” And so, I said, “Well, what’s the deal?”She says, “Well, we’ve been trying to conceive,” and this is a great couple, they love God, they’re sweet people, they’re members of the church, they serve, they’re gonna be great parents, young, just – they’re delightful. They said, “We cannot conceive, she can’t get pregnant. We don’t know what the deal is. Could you pray?” I said, “Yeah. I’ll pray.” So, I prayed for them, and many of us were praying for them. And about a week or two ago, I got an email from them, saying, “Hey, we had a little boy, he was nine pounds,” which is bigger than the mother. She’s an itty-bitty lady. This is a huge kid.
And so, God answered our prayers and God opened her womb and God gave them a baby just like he did Ruth. And what this means is that children come from God. Children are a blessing from the Lord. Psalm says, “That children are a blessing from God.” We live in a town that doesn’t believe that, all right. There’s less Christians and children than there are dogs. Children come from God. They’re a blessing. I look at my kids all the time, I say, “You are my blessing, and you are my blessing, and you are my blessing, and you are my blessing,” they know that. I need them to know that they are God’s blessing. And some people will tell you, “Oh, kids cost a lot of money. They’re a major inconvenience. They’re a lot of work.” They are, and they’re a blessing, it’s all true – it’s all true. And they get the blessing of not just a child, but a, what, a son – a first-born son.
I’ll tell you a little story about my first-born son. His name is Zachariah Blaise, my oldest child is a daughter, Ashley, she’s nine. She’s awesome. I just totally love this girl. My oldest son is Zachariah Blaise Driscoll. He’s seven. And when he was first born, my wife gave birth, I’m there, he’s covered in all the slime, and the doctor hands him to me and he’s screaming and freaking out and he’s peeing like a sprinkler, he’s going nuts. And they hand him to me, and so I’m, you know, I’m deeply moved. Here’s my first born son, I’m gonna consecrate him to the Lord, I’m gonna hold him up, I’m gonna pray. So, I have open-toed sandals, it’s summertime, it’s warm, and I’m holding him. I said, “God, you are a father, I am your son. I am a father. This is my son. God, please save him, and please use him to teach me what it’s like to be your son and how it is to be a son.”
And he crapped on my foot in that moment, he totally did. He totally crapped on my foot as I was praying. And if you haven’t had a kid, the first one is like road tar. It’s unbelievable. This stuff is not even on the periodic chart, and it’s all over my foot. And I held him and I just started laughing, because God answered my prayer, you know? I was like, “God what kind of son am I,” he’s like [blows raspberry]. I was like, “Ooh, there’s a revelation,” you know? And I just love being dad and I love my sons, I love my daughters. My other two boys are awesome. My five-year-old son, Calvin and I, Calvin Martin, we went on a hike in the woods this week, and today when I got home, my one-year-old son, Gideon Joseph, he wanted to wrestle with me. He’s a little guy with a lot of faith, because he thinks he can take me.
And so, I’m wrestling, I mean this is – it is a blessing to be a dad. It is a blessing to be a mom. It is a blessing to have children. Yeah, it’s work, all right. Yeah, it is. And, yeah, it costs money. And, yeah, it’s an inconvenience, but it is a blessing, and Ruth and Boaz get blessed – they get blessed. They get each other, and the God adds to their blessing and gives them a child – gives them a first-born son. “Then, the women said to Naomi,” so the scene shifts to the mother-in-law. And the women from her Bible Study in her church and her girlfriends come around and say, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer. And may his name be renowned in Israel.” Talking about this little boy, he’s gonna be the redeemer, “He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age.”
You know what, when you get old, grandkids will keep you young. That’s what they’re saying. Grandkids are like redemption. Grandkids make you happy. Grandkids are fun. Grandkids are great. I get the pleasure of seeing my mom and dad, who attend this church, as well as my wife’s dad, who’s a pastor, and he attends this church in the evening, and my mother-in-law, as well. They all love God, and they all love our kids, and they’re great grandparents. They’re wonderful to our kids, and I get to see them hold our kids and play with our kids. And I’ll you what; it breathes life into the grandparents. I mean we got grandpas down on the ground wrestling, they weren’t doing that before the grandkids showed up. They’re going for walks, feeding ducks, doing puzzles, you know. I mean, before that, my dad wasn’t doing a lot of puzzles, you know? He’s an ex-construction worker, drywaller, he wasn’t a real puzzle guy, you know. I mean, and it’s fun, it’s a nourisher, a restorer, a replenisher of life.
And I want you guys to get this picture in your horizon of marriage and children and grandchildren. My wife and I were talking about this week, and our oldest is nine, our youngest is one and I asked my wife, I said, “Well, do you think we’ll live in this house when the kids get older? Do you think we’ll need this big house?” And she said, “Well, of course. They’re gonna get married, they’re gonna have a lot of kids, and on Friday night they’re all gonna go on a date with their spouse and we’re gonna get all the grandkids. And we’re gonna need a bigger house than this, because we’re gonna have a ton of grandkids.” My wife has a one-year-old kid and right now she’s planning the grandma date night, you know, penciled in for 2030. I mean, that’s – that looks good, too. So, here’s what you want on the horizon, you don’t want to say, “What is the good life?” The good life is not Hugh Hefner, and you know, 30, 20 girlfriends who can’t read, you know, that’s not the good life. The good life is, you know, getting married, loving your kids, loving your grandkids, and then having grandkids to play with. That’s the good life.
And they say to her, “You’re blessed now,” she’s no longer bitter Mara; she’s back to blessed, sweet Naomi. This grandbaby is gonna be a source of great joy for her. And I’ll tell you what, just seeing my folks and Grace’s folks with their grandkids; it’s still true. Maybe one of you here is a grandparent, at the 7:00, and if you are, I’m sure you can agree with me that the grandkids are a blessing, and they are a source of life and joy. And Naomi’s life has been very hard, but this grandson is gonna make all the difference in the world. So, it continues, they say, “He shall be a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you – is more to you than seven sons, and has given birth to him.” Seven is the number of perfection; seven sons is prototypical in Scripture of the perfect family.
They say, Naomi, it looked like your life was destroyed, but it’s perfect. Your daughter-in-law, Ruth, she loves you so much. She loves the Lord so much. She’s a better gift to you than seven sons; not only that, you got your grandson. We’ve seen the full redemption here of these women. Ruth has gone from being an idolater, to a worshiper, from being a widow, to being a wife, from being flat broke, busted poor, to being richly blessed. From being all alone, to being loved and now being a wife and mom. God is a good God. God does good things. Ruth ran to God in faith and he blessed her.
Naomi, too, has gone from being a bitter old woman, to being a blessed grandma, and her life has taken a dramatic turn for the better. And then, in Verse 16, we see one of the most beautiful snapshots in all of Scripture. There we read, “Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse.” The final picture we have of Naomi in the Book is holding her grandchild. All right, I can just see it. I mean, she’s blowing on his fat neck and tickling his huge thigh and blowing zerberts on his gut, and being drooled all over and making him laugh. And he’s laying on her chest, and she’s rubbing his back and burping him, and he falls asleep. And she’s in the rocking chair just smiling and thanking God that her life has been redeemed, and that she gets to be a grandma. What a blessed woman she is. What a blessed woman she is, indeed.
“And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name,” this is unusual, all right? That the neighbors come over and name the kid. I’d be like, “Hey, I did all the work, don’t I get to name the kid?” This may be a prophecy, I don’t know. They gave him a name saying, “A son has been born to Naomi, so they named him Obed,” which means worshiper, or servant of God. He was the father of Jesse, the father of who? David. Who’s that? Is that guy a big deal? Um, big deal, you may have heard of him, King David. See, through this love and through this family comes King David. We’ll continue with the legacy in a moment.
But, there are two themes that jump out here that I want to highlight. The first is happiness and the second is legacy. We live in a nation that exists for the pursuit of happiness. Three thousand years removed from the story of Ruth, the question is then, is “Well, how do you get happy? What are the keys to happiness?” Seminars? Books? Pills? A lot of places are gonna tell you you can get happy. We have happy hour. I mean, that’s how bad it is, okay? Three thousand years removed from Ruth, the question then is, “How do we get happy?” And it was interesting; I pulled up a story from the Scripts Howard News Service. Not a Christian group, they did a poll going out asking Americans, “Are you happy or unhappy? What makes you happy or what would make you happy?” And three thousand years removed from Ruth, all the same themes emerged. The title is Get Happy! It’s as simple as wedding bells and crying babies. Here’s how it starts.
The keys to happiness are simple – grow up, right? Get a job. Go to rehab. Find your pants, all right? Those kind of things. Get married, you know, don’t get a friend with benefits, a booty call, a roommate, you know, a password to a Website, you know, don’t. Get married. Have children. Make babies. Be fruitful and multiply. Go to church and try to forget about the wilder days of youth when you were hanging out in Fremont and don’t remember most of them anyway. I put that in, but that’s what it’s talking about. It goes on to say the survey found Americans with particular lifestyles, especially those having a family, planting roots in a community, are much more likely to say they’ve found contentment. The exact same themes, Ruth got saved. Met God. Settled down in Bethlehem. Found a church. Got married. Made babies. Three thousand years later, same answers.
One of the most important things it says Americans can do to improve the odds of being happy is to get married. It goes on; an even stronger factor is the power of organized religion on a sense of well-being. Protestants, especially self-identified, born again, Evangelicals – that’s our team, just so you know – also report a high rate of contentment. Say, “I want to be happy,” “Well, get saved. Become a Christian. Get married. Make babies. Settle down. Happy.” That’s the key to happiness. They go out and survey a bunch of non-Christians, that’s the answer. The same themes we see in Ruth.
Now, in this, what I’m not arguing for is traditional pro-family values, Republican religious right platform, I’m not rooting for any of that. I’m saying God made us male and female. God made us to be married. God made us to have children. God made us to worship him. And when we do those things, we’re happy, because we’re doing the thing that God made us to do. God made us to worship him. We do, we get happy. God made us to marry. We get married, we’re happy. We were made to have children. We have children, we’re happy. Now, that doesn’t mean there’s not sin and difficulty, but because of the Gospel of Jesus, even sin and difficulty could be overcome and there is joy. There’s happiness.
I’ll be totally honest with you. My job is cool; it’s a lot of work. I have a big family; they’re a lot of work. I love my wife; I’ve been together with her now 19 years, over half my life. I’m a really happy guy. That’s why I get up and tell jokes for a living. I’m happy. It’s going good. Like, it’s far better than anything I could have thought of. I mean, as a non-Christian, Ruth didn’t have this plan. As a non-Christian, I didn’t have the plan that God has for my life, but God and his providence brought along my spouse, just as he did Ruth’s. God has blessed me in every way, given me children. I love my wife. I’m really a very happy guy. I mean, between services on Sunday I go home to see my family, because that’s the happiest place on Earth for me.
I walked in the door today, Alexie, she’s three, I call her “goose,” she’s got blonde hair and blue eyes and looks like Cindy Lou Who. She runs to me, “Daddy,” I love that. Gideon crawls over to me, “Uuugh,” he wants to wrestle, you know? I say, “Oh, I got to go take a nap, kids, after we have lunch together.” Calvin says, “Can I come snuggle with you, Dad?” “Yeah.” I get up from my nap, my daughter Ashley, who’s nine, comes over, “Daddy, I hope you preach good tonight. I’ll be praying for you,” gives me a big hug and a kiss. I mean, life is good. My son Zac, is rolling around on his Heelys, he’s seven, he’s figured out those crazy Heelys. So, he’s rolling all of the place. He’s learned to play basketball in his Heelys and he says, “It’s not traveling. I didn’t take a step.” So, he’s got this whole thing worked out. So, I’m out shooting hoops with my son in Heelys. I mean, life is cool. I’m really happy, to be honest with you.
When I go home tonight, I’m gonna kiss every one of kids and I’m gonna watch them sleep, and they look absolutely beautiful when they sleep, and then snuggle up with my wife. I mean, life’s not so bad. I really am a happy guy. This story is about happiness. It starts as dark as it could; time of the Judges, famine, funeral. It ends with redemption, salvation, marriage, baby. I mean, you talk about stark contrast. This is the world without God providing. This is the world when God shows up.
And the second thing it talks about is legacy. Now, let me hammer on this. Again, I hammer on it all the time. You don’t want to just have a good weekend; you want to have a good legacy. You want to put people and ideas, like your children and the Gospel into the future if you love God. Part of the problem with our post-modern mood, and I wonder if it is a little more than that, is the fascination with this present, and an absolute self-absorption that thinks of no one but me. The Bible calls us to think about the future and love others, not just ourselves. I get criticized for this quite heavily, and I’m sure it’ll happen again, whole books have been written, with whole chapters arguing against, what I call, patriarchy, which is not that complicated, actually.
It said a man would love God, be responsible, keep his hands to himself, marry a woman who loves God, honor her and her family, marry her. That they would have children that they would love and raise those children, that the man would not divorce his wife. There are occasions where divorce is acceptable, but many of the divorces, sadly, do not have acceptable reasons. That the man would stay married to his wife, that he would love his kids, raise his kids, that he and his wife would stay in love together. But then, they would see their grandchildren and perhaps even their great-grandchildren, love God and from one generation to the next there would be responsible men, and women who are loved. And that there would be joy and there would be marriage, and there would be Jesus, and there would be babies, and there would be more joy, and more marriage, and more babies. I get criticized for this all the time. I’m not sure why. It’s like, really? So telling her you love her, sleeping with her, breaking her heart, cheating on her, living with her, ripping her off, committing adultery on her, dumping her, leaving her as a single mother, or telling her to get an abortion, like, Plan B is more kind? I don’t get it.
I just, frankly, don’t get it. I was talking to my nine-year-old daughter, she’s a great theologian, she said, “Daddy, do people actually think I’m oppressed?” My nine-year-old daughter – I said, “Yeah. Some do,” I mean, because she reads the books and sees the articles. She said, “That’s ridiculous. They obviously didn’t have a good daddy.” That’s all we’re talking about; men who love their wives, men who love their kids, men who take responsibility for the well-being of their family, and also want to see their grandkids and great-grandkids do the same thing. That’s all. It’s legacy. I talk to my kids all the time about legacy. We’re the Driscoll boys. We don’t do that, you know. You’re the Driscoll girls, and you don’t do that. We love Jesus. This is how it is. We worship God. This is how it is.
My son, Calvin, we went on a hike in the woods this week – he’s five – talking about okay, where are you gonna live? What are you gonna do for a job? Who are you gonna marry? How many kids are you gonna have, you know? What are you gonna do when that kid wants you to do drugs or alcohol? I mean, he’s five. Right, he’s five. He says, “Dad, why are you doing all –?” I said, “Buddy, I love you. I want you to be thinking about your future. I want you to be –.” He said, “I love Jesus. I know what to do.” I was like, “All right. Then, let’s hike. So, we’re –,” you know, we’re fine. But, at even at a young age, I want them to be thinking, not taking away their innocence of childhood and their joy of childhood, but I want them to be thinking, “Man, I’m part of a legacy. My grandpa and grandma love God, and my mom and dad love God, and I’m part of this family. And there needs to be legacy, and the future is in our hands.”
Here’s what I find is interesting. The world is starting to catch up. Harvard Business Review. Not a theological publication, by any stretch of the imagination; just tracing business trends. The top 20 trends for 2007, they call them breakthrough ideas for 2007, this is the February issue of the Harvard Business Review, which I subscribe to. The 13th biggest issue for business this year, they are saying, is patriarchal. I’ll read it to you:
“People who are social, religious, or political conservatives tend to have more children,” – it’s true. Seattle has less children and less Christians than dogs. The number of Christians and children tend to go up together. Christians make more babies, at Mars Hill we do. We have a few hundred weddings and hundreds of babies born a year. Be fruitful, multiply, increase in number, fill the earth, subdue it. We went, “Dibs.” That’s what we did. “People who are social, religious, or political conservatives tend to have more children, and that fact has profound implications for culture, for politics, and for business. In the United States, for example, fertility rates are 12 percent higher in states that voted for George W. Bush in the most recent Presidential election, than in the more liberal and secular states that supported his opponent.” I am not for or against George W. Bush. I am just reading an article. All right. Yeah, you’re like, “Well, who’d you vote for?” Jesus. I always write in Jesus. That’s who I always vote for. True story.
“Indeed, if the John Kerry states succeed and formed a new nation, its fertility rate would be just 1.8 children per woman, 13 percent below the level needed to replace the population.” It goes on to say, “And as an increasing share of all children is descendent from the people whose conservative values have led them to raise large families, we see the emergence of societies in which the patriarchal and highly pro-natal values of the Abrahamic religions are dominant.” It goes on to say, “Patriarchy always makes a comeback, because its adherence put more genes and ideas into the future, than do their secular counterparts. This process is already well underway in the United States. For example, among American women just now passing beyond reproductive age, nearly 20 percent are childless, and almost as many have only one child.”
“Consequently, a relatively large share of the next generation is descended from a comparatively narrow and socially conservative segment of the society, that places a high value on reproduction. Today, we see a culture in which social conservatives, and the religious minded, play a far greater role than they did 40 years ago.” One more statement, “Already the percentage of American women with small children and jobs outside of the home is declining.” What they’re saying is this, if you want to impact the future, you’re gonna need to be there, but you and I are gonna die. We’re not gonna be there. But, if we have children, and we teach them about Jesus, then we will put people and ideas – children and the Gospel – in the future.
You’re in one of the least churched cities in the United States of America. What we are part of is not just the growing of a large church, but in many ways, a social revolution. Not because we hate the city, but because we love it, and because we don’t want this to any longer be one of the least churched cities in the United States of America, which means we want to have happiness in the present that comes through holiness, and also can come through marriage and children. We also want to put people and ideas in the future, our grandchildren and the truth of Jesus. It’s a legacy we’re shooting for, not just a good weekend, but a good legacy.
Boaz absolutely gets that. When he gave his public pledge to Ruth, he said that he would honor her deceased husband and his deceased father, because the family line was coming to an end. That was a terrible and tragic thing to have the death of a family name. And Boaz says, “Through our children, there will be legacy. There’ll be joy for me in the present, and there’ll be legacy for our family in the future.” This issue of legacy is so important, because it then begins to trace the genealogy that comes from this little boy, Obed, who is born from Ruth and Boaz. I’m so glad they didn’t have an abortion, because ultimately you will see that Jesus comes from this family. The reason the story matters so greatly, is that this family is going to be in the genealogy of the line of the coming of God into human history.
I’ll read quickly, but the point is this, you never know who your children will be. You’ll never know who your grandchildren will be. You never know who your great-grandchildren will be, and what the providential hand of God has intended for your future. You just never know. It goes on, “He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.” – Verse 18 – “Now, these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron. Hezron fathered Ram. Ram fathered Amminadab. Amminadab fathered Nahshon. Nahshon fathered Salmon. Salmon fathered Boaz. Boaz fathered Obed,” the little itty-bitty boy that just got born. “Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David,” the mighty great King David.
There’s one other place in Scripture that the name of Ruth is mentioned. Do you know where it is? Matthew, Chapter 1. The opening genealogy for the lineage of the family line of Jesus Christ. I’ll read it to you fast. It’s a bizarre genealogy, in that it also includes five women, which is very unusual in the patriarchal nature of Scripture, places like Genesis 5 and 10, where there are genealogies tend not to list women. These include some really bad women. The point is, that there are prostitutes and liars and adulterers and murderers in Jesus’ family, so come on in. There’s room for you, too. That’s the good news. “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ,” – Matthew Chapter 1, Verse 1 – “the son of David, the son of Abraham:” – now, as I read this, too, I know some of you are like, “Man, do we got to read the Hebrew phone book? Do we got to do that? Do we got to read the Hebrew phone book?” Yeah, we do, because all Scripture is God breathed and profitable.
Even the names are there by God’s providential decree, by his divine inspiration. “Abraham was the father of Isaac,” – Abraham was a Babylonian, probably involved in the making of the Tower of Babel. God saved him and enabled his barren wife to conceive a son, named Isaac, which means laughter, because God always gets the last laugh. He’s funny that way. And that through that family line ultimately, is gonna come Boaz and Obed and Jesse and David, and ultimately Jesus. I’ll read it, “Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, by Tamar,” Tamar. Tamar. Oh, yeah, she’s the gal in Genesis 38. Got dressed up like a prostitute and seduced her father-in-law. She wasn’t a deacon, that’s my point, right. She was a prostitute. What does that mean? That means that God could even save, love, work through those of us that do despicable things, because God is that good, and God is that big.
“And Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz,” — here he is – Book of Ruth – here he shows up, “By Rahab,” – Rahab, Joshua, Chapters 1-6. What was her job? Prostitute. What was her Spiritual gift? Lying. You say, “Well, what happened?” God saved her. Changed her. Made her a totally new woman. Gave her a fresh new life. She’s listed in the New Testament Book of Hebrews as a woman of exemplary faith. You know what. God can save anybody. God can change anybody. God can forgive, redeem, transform anybody. “And, Boaz the father of Obed,” – there is the little boy we just celebrated – “by Ruth,” – the Moabite, who was a worshiper of Chemosh, but she got saved, too. God changed her life. She was redeemed, “and Obed the father of Jesse, Jesse the father of King David. And David was the father of Solomon, by the wife of Uriah,” – who’s that? Bathsheba.
King David lived up on a hill. Bathsheba apparently lived below him. She was taking a bath, he saw her, lusted after her, slept with her, got her pregnant, whacked her husband to cover it, and through that came Solomon, a man who wrote books of the Bible and helped build the temple, because God is big and good and he works even in spite of sin. He doesn’t ordain or author sin, but the God of Providence is big enough to even bring good out of evil, “and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, and Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,” – he was the guy with the good vertical – Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat – “and Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, and Jehoram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amos, Amos the father of Josiah, Josiah the father of Jeconiah,” – bad dude – “and his brothers at the time of the deportation to Babylon.”
You’ll notice one generation to the next, who’s in the middle? Boaz, his wife Ruth, their son Obed. “And after the deportation to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Akim, and Akim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary,” – a young woman who everybody thought was a tramp. She wasn’t. She was a Godly woman, “of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”
God came into human history through this family, and where was he born friends? Where was Jesus born? Bethlehem, the House of Bread. Jesus Christ was the Bread of Life, born in the House of Bread. Where did Boaz and Ruth fall in love? Where did they conceive and birth and raise baby Obed? Bethlehem. A town pregnant with meaning, until Jesus comes through that family line, in that same town, to be the redeemer that he is every way like, but superior to, Boaz, the redeemer of Ruth and Naomi.
Here is why I share that with you. There’s one place listed outside of Ruth that the name of Ruth is mentioned. It is here. I believe all Scripture is God breathed and inspired of God, and God doesn’t waste words. God inserts Ruth, along with these other people, to show us that there is a very important distinction between religion and redemption. The point of the Book of Ruth is redemption. The problem with the people to whom Matthew is writing, is they are steeped in religion. Okay, there is religion which is caring for widows, orphans, and those in their distress. I’m talking about religion in its negative connotation. Religion in its works-oriented righteousness nature.
Let me say this, in that sense, the God of the Bible hates religion. Religion is the enemy of redemption. Religion and redemption are constantly at odds. Martin Luther says, rightly, that religion is the default mode of the human heart, and that we must constantly be saved, redeemed from religion. Let me explain to you why I hate religion. Let me explain to you why Matthew begins his story of Jesus to religious people, absolutely decimating their religion and arguing for redemption. I say that for two reasons. One, some of you come in here and say, “He’s not for homosexuality, sex before marriage, he thinks you should, you know, grow up and get married and make babies. I think he’s just a Republican.” He’s not a Republican, or a Democrat. He’s a Christian, and that God made us male and female to marry, be fruitful, increase in number, fill the earth, subdue it as worshipers of him. I’m encouraging you to obey the God of the Bible.
And in telling you what you shouldn’t do, my fear is that some of you will automatically, as religious people, say, “Go get ‘em, Mark. Go get the Liberals. Shoot ‘em. Shoot ‘em good.” And let me tell you, that those of you who are religious are equally as sinful as any prostitute, homosexual, drug addict, thief, anyone, because religion is the opposite of redemption. Religion is the enemy of the work of Jesus. And I also need to shoot the religious people so that I can be equal opportunity, and you know, practice diversity, which is offending all people. Now, here’s why I hate religion, and here is why I think Ruth – as well as the others – is included in the genealogy of Matthew, to fight against this horrible enemy of religion.
First, religion says this, “If I obey, God will love me.” Some of you have heard that, if you will stop drinking, sleeping around, if you will stop doing this, that or the other thing, and start doing these other things, then God will love you. Redemption says God does love you. God has loved you in the life, death, burial, resurrection of Jesus. God demonstrates his love for us in this: while we were yet sinners, still totally jacked up in every way, Christ died for us. And that the redemption of the Gospel of Jesus says God loves you. God loves you. And because God loves you, you can love God, and you can obey him because he will change your heart, and he will change your mind, and he will change your life.
Like Roman says, his kindness will lead you to repentance. That false Gospel of religion is so subtle. It is so disgusting. This is akin to me looking at my three-year old Alexie and saying, “Sweetheart, here’s a list of things. If you do them, I will be your daddy and I will love you. And if you don’t do them, I won’t love you and I won’t be your daddy.” That’s the most disgusting false Gospel in the world. God, as a father, looks at his kids and he says, “I love you, therefore love me and obey me. I’m your daddy. My commands are good. I’m here to protect and defend you.”
I do this all the time with my kids. I look them right in the eye. They’re all rebellious, sinning, whatever they’re doing. Wanting to light off fireworks in the house or swimming in the toilet, whatever’s going on, I look them right in the eye, I say, “Who am I?” They say, “You’re my daddy,” “And how do I feel about you?” “You love me.” “What are you gonna do?” “I’ll obey you.” That’s totally different than religion. That’s totally different than religion.
Secondly, religion says that the world is filled with two kinds of people; good people, bad people. How do you know the good people? Well, they’re like me, of course. And the bad people are not like me. That’s what religion teaches; good people, bad people. Redemption teaches that there are two kinds of people, repentant and unrepentant, because all people are bad. I hate to tell you, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. If the world was an old western, we’d all have black hats. Jesus would be the only dude on a white horse with a white hat. God doesn’t look down and see good people and bad people; he sees bad people and the Lord Jesus. That’s it.
Religious people don’t get it. Religious people stand back and say, “Oh, they’re not good people.” The religious people are the ones who murder Jesus. That should clue you in; they’re not on the right team. All right, Jesus goes to the most jacked up, the sexual immoral, the loose, the prostitutes, the alcoholics, the thieves, and he says, “You’re sinners.” And they say, “Totally. Could you help? Could you come over to our house for dinner? We’re totally jacked up. We need help.” Jesus goes and says the same thing to the religious guys, and they say, “You have a demon! You’re an evildoer! We’re good guys! They’re bad guys! How could you hang out with the bad guys! You’re not a good guy! You’re not like us! You broke our rules! We’re gonna kill you.” That’s religion. Religion says there’s good people and bad people. Redemption says there’s bad people who repent, and there’s bad people who don’t repent. That’s the only difference.
Third distinction. Religious people care all about your birth, “Did you grow up in a Christian family? Did you go to Christian school? Did you go to Awanas? Did you? Did ya? Did you go to the Christian college? Did you win the Bible Trivia Bowl? Do you know anything in King James? Do you know all the worship songs? Did you sing, This Little Light of Mine, Let it Shine as a kid? Did ya?” I’ll tell you what, being born into a Christian family, having a mommy and daddy who love Jesus, having a Grammy and Grampy who love Jesus, are not a problem if you love Jesus. If not, it’s only cuts in the line to Hell. It’s really no benefit at all, because religion cares about your birth. But, redemption cares about your new birth. That’s what redemption is about.
A guy comes to Jesus, “What do I need to do?” Jesus says, “You’ve been born. You’re physically alive. You’re spiritually dead.” He says the same thing in Ephesians, “You need to get born again. You need to be spiritually born again. God needs to be your father. The church needs to be your family. Men and women who love God need to be your brothers and sisters. You need a new life. You need a new start. You need to be born again. You need a new birth.” Have you been born again? That’s the issue. You can’t say, “Why, I came from a Christian family.” Religious people care a lot – you know, Ruth didn’t come from a good family, Moabites worshiping Chemosh. Freaky perverts in Moab. But, she got born again. Her life changed. She became a worshiper. Everything was different.
While I’m at it, here is probably the reason I hate religion most violently. Religion tells you this. Religion tells you it’s all about what you do. So, do this! Do this! Do this! Do this! Don’t do that! Don’t do that! Don’t do that!” The problem is, usually the rules aren’t in the Bible. They’re making them up as they go. You say, “Where is that in the Bible?” They’re like, “You know, I don’t need to look.” It’s not in there. I love the Bible. I love everything in the Bible. I believe everything in the Bible. And I believe, just because you own one, doesn’t mean you get to keep writing. And religious people love to make long lists of rules, “Check, check, check, check, check.” And they say it’s about what you do and don’t do. Redemption says it’s not about what you do. It’s not about what you don’t do. It’s about what Jesus has done. That’s what it’s all about.
Now, let me tell you why this just freaks me out. I went to a pastors’ conference recently, and nobody said a thing about Jesus for days. One of the biggest churches in America, a buddy of mine went there, he’s a pastor, he said they gave a whole sermon, they sang a bunch of songs, they did a reading, they called people forward if they wanted to have their sins forgiven and go to Heaven, and they never said anything about Jesus. That’s religion. “Do this! Do this! Do this!” No, Jesus goes to the cross and says what? It’s finished. Jesus is God. He lived the life we could never live. He died the death we should’ve died. And on the cross, he says, “It’s finished.” It’s all done. There’s nothing for you to do to be redeemed. I’ve done everything. Trust me.
We see that with Ruth. She sits there quietly while Boaz redeems her. The church is the bride of Christ. We’re gonna sit there and receive from the Lord Jesus, our glorious Boazian redeemer, redemption. He does all the work. I’ve listened to the radio recently, with radio preachers – I can’t do this anymore, but I listened recently, for two or three hours, driving somewhere, and never once heard the name of Jesus. Not once. I heard a ton of religion. “Do this. Do this. Don’t do this. God will love you. Do this. Do this. Don’t do this.” Jesus died. He did everything. He loves you.
And here’s why I hate religion, since I’m on it and we don’t have any time constraints at this service. [Laughter] Religion never leads to joy or humility, because religion makes a long list of rules that aren’t in the Bible. If you obey them, you’re an arrogant, self-righteous jerk. You think you’re better than everyone. And if you’re honest, you realize that you don’t even play by your own rules and you’re a total hypocrite, and then you get totally depressed. How many of you have lived this life, “I’m not good enough. I can’t do it. I’ve tried hard. I’m not perfect. Maybe I’m not elect. Maybe God doesn’t love me. Maybe there’s no hope for me. I’ve tried religion and I just can’t do it.” Or, you’ve been the other, “I don’t drink, or smoke, or chew, or cuss. I’m a Godly person.” No, you’re filled with pride, that’s what got Satan kicked out of Heaven.” Self-esteem is evil. Pride is not a virtue. It’s a vice. God doesn’t want us to be proud or depressed, despairing, and hopeless. He wants us to have a humble joy. Religion only leads to pride, “I did it!” Despair, “I can’t.” It never leads to Jesus. It never leads to humility. I’m a sinner. I didn’t save myself. I didn’t redeem myself. I’m not the hero of my life. Jesus is my hero. Jesus is my redeemer. Jesus is my Boaz.
Redemption also leads to joy. God loves me. God blesses me. God has good things for me. If I walk with him, whether it’s a difficult season or it is a blessed season, God will give me joy. Jesus alone gives joy. Jesus alone gives legacy. Jesus alone makes today worthwhile and gives hope for tomorrow. Religion can do none of that. That’s why Matthew includes in his genealogy the story of Ruth and Boaz, because religious people can’t hear it enough. Religious people cannot hear of redemption enough, because they themselves need to be redeemed from religion.
I’m calling you today to the Lord Jesus. Repent of sin, trust in him, he’s your redeemer, just as Ruth went to Boaz and asked him to redeem her, and then he did all the work. Go to the Lord Jesus today. Ask him for redemption. Through his death, burial, resurrection, he has done all of the work. And some of you are in Ruth Chapter 1. It’s a dark day. Keep going. Get hope from Naomi and Ruth, that if you continue with God, he will smile and bless. Some of you are in Chapter 4. Life has been hard, but now like my life, it is in a good season and you’re glad. We want you to respond by trusting in Jesus, our glorious Boaz, the God who redeems us. We want you to walk away from your religion, which leads to your despair or your pride. We want you to have humble joy, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and him alone.
We want you to partake of Communion as Christians to remember the body and blood of Jesus, how we have been redeemed. We want to give of our tithes and offerings so that the Word of Jesus can continue, and then we’re going to sing and celebrate, because the book opens with a funeral, but it ends with a wedding, and so does the Gospel; Jesus dies, but then he rises. And one day, he’s coming again. And according to Revelation 19, there will be one last wedding between Jesus and his bride, the church, and there will be a party. And so, we sing and celebrate today in preparation and anticipation and in faith for that day. I love you guys. I really need you to understand the Gospel. I really need you to not convert to religion. I really want you desperately to understand redemption through the Lord Jesus, to have joy in the present, and legacy in the future. Thanks for letting me preach so long. I’ll pray.
Father God, you are a great father. I thank you that you are not some twisted sadistic father who tells us that if we try harder, do better, accomplish more, that maybe then you will give us your affection. God, I thank you that you are a father who loves us first, and then it is your kindness that leads us to repentance, and that you don’t hand us a list of religious rules. You hand us redemption, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and his finished work. I pray for my friends, Lord God, that they would understand the Gospel, that they would be converted from religion, thinking that because they don’t smoke or drink or cuss or sleep around, that somehow you will love them more, or that by thinking because they recycle or do smoke or do drink or do cuss, that somehow they are holier, because they enjoy their freedom.
God may it for us each be only, always, solely about Jesus. May we take every page of Scripture, may we take every person in scripture, may we take every day and moment and thought of our life captive to Christ, and may we see him as the source of our joy, the hope for our future, the redeemer of all we are, including the legacy that we believe. God I pray you would send your Holy Spirit so that we can understand redemption and that we would understand it in light of Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen.