Great stories capture our hearts. Tucked within the pages of the Old Testament Historical Books lies a literary masterpiece called Ruth. This brief historical book tells the story of two poor widows who were saved from heartbreaking circumstances, only to be given an amazing future at the hand of a loving redeemer. Ruth is a story of loyal love, sacrifice, and, of course, the glorious nature of redemption. Why should you consider preaching Ruth for your next sermon series?
Ruth is a compact gem. The idea of preaching through an entire book of the Old Testament is an intimidating thought to many preachers. However, for those convinced of the blessing and necessity of text-driven preaching, Ruth is a wonderful place to start. Each of the four chapters of Ruth can serve as a complete preaching text. A four-part sermon series would allow a preacher ample time to reveal the beauty and redemptive power of this book. Furthermore, excellent resources abound that will help one understand the context, substance, structure, and the spirit of this book.
Ruth contains biblical themes to encourage, edify, and inspire. Ruth contains several predominate themes. Recognizing how these themes develop will contribute to rich and encouraging preaching.
The Sovereignty of God. God is mentioned 23 times in 85 verses. While the text doesn’t explicitly state how God worked providential events together, it is clear God was at work in some amazing ways. Ruth testifies to the reality that our God is very much at work in a broken world, even in unseen circumstances. Through the gracious providence of God, desperate widows were saved, a young and honorable foreigner was united with a son of Israel, and a child was born into the lineage that led to the birth of the King of Kings, our redeemer Jesus Christ.
Redemption. At the core, Ruth is a story of redemption. The chronicle begins like all great stories, with people facing what seems to be an insurmountable challenge. As the narrative unfolds Ruth and Naomi’s situation takes several surprising turns that lead to a complete reversal of their situation. Not only are their physical lives rescued from poverty, Naomi’s faith is restored. This once bitter woman (see 1:13b) finds new joy and delight as she witnesses the fulfillment of God’s plan (see 4:14–17).
Loyal Love. The events of Ruth occurred during the climactic days of the Judges (1:1). Ruth punctuates these dark times with refreshing examples of loyal love. Both Ruth and Boaz made key decisions to compassionately and sacrificially care for others. Their example is worthy of emulation and ultimately serves as a reminder of the compassionate and sacrificial love of God.
Ruth echoes the greatest story ever told. Ruth provides several opportunities to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Compare using Analogy. The themes of redemption and loyal love provide wonderful ways to point people to the Gospel. The redemptive elements of Ruth could be compared and contrasted with the ultimate redemptive work of God in Jesus Christ. A wise preacher will carefully consider the original context of the passage before showing how it compares to the reality of Jesus Christ and the Gospel.
Connect using Typology. Typology makes a specific connection between a person or event (a type) and a later person or event (an antitype). While the New Testament does not specifically identify Boaz as a type of Christ, some preachers are comfortable making this connection. Given the predominate role Boaz plays in the text as a kinsman redeemer, such a connection seems warranted.
Reveal by looking at Redemptive History. Ruth is a historical book that recounts events in the plan of God to rescue the world. Specifically, Boaz and Ruth have a child who becomes the grandfather of David; they are part of the “royal” line that leads up to Jesus’ entrance into the world. Showing people how this story fits into God’s plan to save the world is another way to bring the gospel into focus.
J. Dace Clifton is the Pastor of First Baptist Church in Hico, Texas, a PhD candidate at Southwestern, an adjunct professor at Arlington Baptist University, and a regular contributor to www.dailypastor.com.