Ruth 4:17-22; Matthew 1:1-17
"The Denouement of Ruth (III) - The Great Big Picture"
The neighbor women gave him a name, saying, "A son has been born to Naomi!" So they named him Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.
Now these are the generations of Perez: to Perez was born Hezron,19 and to Hezron was born Ram, and to Ram, Amminadab, 20 and to Amminadab was born Nahshon, and to Nahshon, Salmon, 21 and to Salmon was born Boaz, and to Boaz, Obed, 22 and to Obed was born Jesse, and to Jesse, David. (Ruth 4:17-22).
I know that many of you like detective novels . Now, itís your turn to play detective and youíre summoned to a home to enter determine what type of person lives there. You arrive, get out of the car with your notebook in your hand, come to the front door and open it. You walk in and shut the door behind you. You turn around to look at the door itself to see if it reveals any clues. It appears to be a normal door in every way. Thereís a coat hook on the back of the door, not an unusual thing except that itís not placed at regular 5í level, but rather 3í from the ground.
And thereís more. The coat hook is a single pronged brass hook placed at the side of the door rather than in the middle. Thereís more - this single pronged brass coat hook is placed sideways on the door opposite the door knob.
As you look at the coat hook, you think, "Hmmm, this is not just a little hook, but perhaps a big clue regarding the identity of the person who lives in this house." You know that if you could understand the purpose of that little hook, you could come closer to solving the puzzle. If you knew the purpose of that hook, you would know something very significant about the person who lived in that house.
Sometimes if you know the purpose of a thing, why it is put where it is, you will recognize it as a clue to something much bigger.
Thatís what weíre concerned with today - that "something" which is much, much bigger. Thatís why we call this, "The Great Big Picture."
Weíre concerned with that "Big Picture" and if weíre going to understand the great big plan of God in the world, weíre going to need some very important clues.
If we knew, for instance, the purpose of the Book of Ruth, the reason God put this little four chapter book in His Big Book, we might know a little bit more about the big picture, the big plan, of God for Planet Earth.
Or, if we knew why God put family trees, the lengthy genealogies in the Bible, we might know something more about the mind of the One who put these family trees in His own book, and we might know a little bit more about the great big plan and the great big picture. Then maybe weíd learn something about this God, what kind of God He is and what kind of mission He is on for Planet Earth.
Weíve come to the end of the Book of Ruth. As weíve studied it together for a few months, what have we learned? Now we try to preserve the fruit of our study. If someone asked you what the purpose of this Book was, what would you say?
As weíve said, we find in this Book a picture of the Redeemer. Jesus once chastised some men who were notorious Bible students. They studied the Bible from the moment they got up until the moment they went to bed. They were the Pharisees. Jesus said this to them, "You search the Scriptures thinking that in them you have life. But they [the Scriptures] testify to Me and you refuse to come to Me."
So, all of the Scriptures testify to Jesus. We found an especially clear view of our Redeemer in the Book of Ruth. We saw repeatedly the invisible hand of providence moving in the Book of Ruth. We saw that God, used even what may have been one personís sin (remember Elimelech took his covenant family out of the canopy of Godís blessing, out of the Church, and relocated that family into Moab) to accomplish His will.
God, governing all events, brought this foreign woman, Ruth, to Bethlehem. More than likely Ruth had never even heard of Bethlehem before she met this disobedient family. Then she came to Bethlehem, a widow, and coming in among the covenant people in the covenant community, she met with Godís provision.
Remember that God had stipulated in His law a remedy for a widow who had died childless. Ruth met with this remedy in the provision of a kinsman-redeemer. Ruth believed and was grafted into Godís vine. God handled all of that. God made all that work together. The God who governs every molecule and atom and particle governed all the events leading to Ruthís coming in to His covenant people.
It is that very aspect of providence that is most clearly highlighted in the Book of Ruth. If I had to put my finger on one purpose of the Book of Ruth, it is to highlight this specific aspect of Godís providential care. God is not only governing all of things in a general kind of way, He is specifically governing His Church.
Thereís a little phrase in the Westminster Confession of Faith that gets right at the core of this. I love how it goes: "Just as the providence of God in general extends to every creature, so in a very special way, it takes care of His Church and orders all things for her good."
Why did God include the Book of Ruth in the Bible? Itís because this Book screams of that special care He takes of His church ordering all things for her good. God is putting together a people and He is going to give that people to His Son as a bride. And in doing so the Book of Ruth clearly shows the care that God is extending to this people in bringing them together as a Bride for the Lord Jesus.
That brings us to the next point. Why does the Bible include the genealogies? You know there are 41 separate genealogies in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Perhaps it was your testimony, or maybe you the know the testimony of some other person who has come to the Bible for the first time and has given himself a goal, "Iím going to start at the Book of Genesis and work my way all the way to the last chapter and verse of the Book of Revelation. Iíve never read the Bible before, but I want to be able to say something to God when I stand before Him. At least I can say that I read His Book. So Iíll start in Genesis 1.1."
Itís only four chapters later that we meet our first genealogy in the pages of Holy Scripture. Not a few people have turned back at this point when, in their ignorance and impatience, they find the genealogies to be irrelevant - "They have nothing to do with my life."
Even those of us who love the Bible and accept it as Godís Word, can be hasty to get past them. Really, if I surveyed every person here in the congregation and asked them to tell me their favorite verse of Scripture or his life verse, how many would say, "Oh, itís that genealogy at the end of the Book of Ruth."
The fact that God deems these family trees so important as to include them in His word should tell us something. That provides us with a clue about the character and the mind of God. It tells us something. If weíll pay attention to that clue it reveals something about the mind of God. These genealogies have a purpose. They show the almighty God tenderly, carefully, meticulously tending His vine from generation to generation. Heís nurturing His vine, the Church, Heís pruning the vine, Heís fertilizing the vine, Heís growing the vine, Heís protecting the vine from her enemies and Heís grafting into the vine to make it more fruitful and productive. In this guided growing process, God is making use of families, one generation after another. The genealogy shows us how important family and successive generations are to God and to His plan.
We can say that Godís plan could not be carried out apart from the succession of generations over which He is so carefully guiding. The vine is branching out, itís spreading and growing with God, the Vine-Dresser, superintending everything about the growth of this vine. God is using families to accomplish this plan.
As we look at these genealogies weíre reminded of Godís faithfulness to the promise He made to Abraham. Remember that promise? "In you, Abraham, will all the families of the earth be blessed."
We are again reminded of those sacred privileges and responsibilities that are ours as we raise up another generation unto the Lord, and as we nurture them in the Church. Wow! Families are right at the core of what God is doing to carry out His plan. Inasmuch as He has allowed you and me to participate in the nurture of families God has welcomed us right in to the plan He is carrying out on Planet Earth.
That brings us to this particular genealogy at the end of this Book of Ruth. I believe that the inclusion of this genealogy tips us off very specifically to the whole purpose of the Book of Ruth.
It is, of course, the family tree of David. It reminds, by the way, that while the Book of Ruth took place in the time of Judges, and most likely in the time of Gideon, it was not compiled in its final form until after the time of David. David, who came so long after Ruth, is included in the end of the Book.
This is the family tree of David and it shows that God was very carefully supervising Davidís lineage. God was carrying out His promise to Davidís ancestor, Abraham, the believer. Into the line of Abraham, into the line of David, God grafts these Gentiles, Hamar, Rahab, and finally, Ruth.
Out of that line comes David, the prototypical King of Israel. Matthew quotes this very passage of Scripture as we saw it today, almost verbatim, to show that the lineage of Boaz and Ruth from Bethlehem, David of Bethlehem, and how it extends to Davidís greater Son, born of a virgin, and born in Bethlehem.
God is bringing His own Son into the world through the line of David. The particular divisions of this genealogy, three sets of fourteen, three sets of twelve plus two - the number of completion plus two - point to the fact that God is showing that all of history is directed toward this complete moment.
It is indeed the fullness of time when God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, that all history points to Jesus, that He is the fullness of that mature and perfect fruit which is found on the vine. He, Himself, said, "I am the Vine." He is the source of all spiritual life. He is the fruit of Israel. He is the personification of Israel. In Him will all the families of the earth be blessed.
I wonder how many of you have considered your own spiritual family tree. I know that some of the cults, particularly the Latter Day Saints (Mormonism) are obsessed with genealogy. The Book of 1st Timothy warns us against becoming obsessed with genealogies. This is not to say, however, that we should not have some appreciation and concern for our particular genealogies.
Perhaps some of you have been very recently grafted into the vine. And as you look back over your lineage you can recognize not a single believer on your motherís side nor on your fatherís side, in fact, back as far as you can record - you see no evidence of believers in your lineage.
But, God has plucked you, like a brand from the fire, and even though youíre part of a pagan line, God, just as He snatched Ruth from the burning, has snatched you and grafted you into the Vine.
Your particular family unit may be the first family in your line to be followers of the Lord Jesus. If thatís the case, you ought to really be grateful to God. You ought to just praise the Lord God, "Thank You! Though I had no advantage of parental guidance toward Christ, still by Your sovereign mercy You snatched me and grabbed me for Yourself and grafted me into the vine."
Or, maybe you are continuing a long-established branch of the vine. You might be able to look back at your father and mother, grandfather and grandmother on both sides, great-grandparents on both sides and know that they were followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. If thatís the case what a great awesome privilege and responsibility is yours.
You carry on a line, a heritage has been bequeathed to you and, as a result, you ought to be very circumspect about how you walk in the world. There are privileges given you that you cannot afford to squander.
You should know that in multi-generational Christian faith we ought to seek evidence of that increasing reformation of practice and of belief. Those of us in raised in multi-generational Christian families should in turn be raising our children to be young theologians.
There is a foundation in multi-generational Christian families which can be used to bless and aid the Church and to spill out into the lives of other families. Thereís a kind of cumulative blessing generation after generation so that this line can be stronger in the Lord. The most mature, substantial, and sweetest fruit on the vine comes from multi-generational Christian families.
Of course, we could ask not only what comes behind, but what will proceed from our lives. That is, "What will come after me in the legacy I leave in this great living vine? Will I be the end of a branch?" Wow. What a sad thing that would be. "Will I raise children and will I influence other people in this branch that the branch might continue to grow and bring glory to the Vine and glory to the Vine Dresser?"
Lastly, I canít read your heart, but are you outside of the Vine? If you are not now included in the Church, even though your name may be on the role of the church, you are outside of the Vine. You are not, therefore, a recipient of Godís special care, that special providence which He exercises toward the people of God.
In fact, far from being under Godís special care you are under Godís wrath and curse. What awaits you is more dreadful than you can possibly imagine. You may even technically be a member of this church or another church, but you are, perhaps, not believing in the Lord Jesus Christ and your lifestyle shows it.
If you are in that situation I want to encourage you in any way that I can to right now look to Christ, to repent of your sin, to confess to God who and what you really are, and surrender to Him .
As Iíve said so many times, come out with your hands up - admit who you are and call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Trust Him, and entrust to Him your past, present, and future because He can take care of all. God sent Jesus into the world to live, to die, and to rise for sinners. The first step for you, therefore, is to confess that you are a sinner and to believe the Lord Jesus, and God will draft you into His Vine.
Imagine coming to our home. You've never been there before, and therefore you donít know Missy or me. You knock on the door and Missy answers, introduces herself, and invites you to come in. Now youíve met Missy, but you donít know me, or anything about meóyou may wonder what kind of person the man of the house is.
As you come in the front door, you might turn around and notice that on the inside of the front door there is a coat hook - not at the 5í level but at 3í, not in the center of the door, but at the side of the door, not upright, but sideways. You might look at that clue and wonder, "What does that clue tell me about the person who lives in this house?"
You might have that insight which says, "Aha! Thatís a kind of hook used by people in wheelchairs to reach back and close the door behind them." You would then deduct that the man of the house must be in a wheelchair. You might have learned something from the clue about the person who put the clue there.
Today, we consider the purpose of the Book of Ruth and the purpose of the genealogies. In doing so, we have learned something about the mind that put them there.
In learning about the mind of God we become better equipped to live for God and to know God. To know the mind and plan of God is one step toward knowing God, Himself. Thatís no small thing, because knowing God is the very definition of eternal life. Jesus said, "This is eternal life that they would know Me, the true and living God, and the One whom Thou has sent, even Jesus Christ."
I pray that you would a little more know God and enjoy that eternal life that belongs to all those who trust in Christ and the One whom Thou has sent, even Jesus Christ."
I pray that you would a little more know God and enjoy that eternal life that belongs to all those who trust in Christ.
Father, this is really our prayer, that we would know You more, because we have become better acquainted with Your mission and Your mind. We thank You for leaving us these two little clues in the genealogies and in the Book of Ruth.
We pray that, far from despising them, we would relish them in what they teach us about the mind of God, so that we would be more equipped to live for God in the world, to glorify You, and to enjoy You forever.
In Jesus, Name. Amen