Wow. I loved this sermon and this speaker. I'd never heard of him before the conference, though Brad had read some of his books. At first I could tell I was just being partial to him because of his thick Scottish accent - one shared by one grandparent on each of my parent's sides. I mean, he could have said anything and I'd have loved it! but then I started listening to more than the roll of his tongue. And there, of course, was far more to the story.
Story, being fitting as Begg's sermon on Ruth broke the Old Testament narrative into a three-part telling of a "beautiful story". And it is. Begg made Ruth come alive in a ways I'd never seen done. This is notable because my dear friend Morgan and I just finished going through the book of Ruth a couple of months ago. It was fresh in my mind and a book I've given attention to before, so take this praise all the more considering!
Begg starts with reminding us of the powerful context. "Against the backdrop of the historical time of the Judges, Ruth shines", he recalled. Add did it ever. The story of Ruth (and Naomi and Boaz) was a beautiful picture of a devoted, brave girl remaining faithful to her family and her God despite great tragedy, and a heroic man, in a time where "everyone did as they saw fit" who rose to redeem her, protect her, and love her.
Begg's sketches, as he called them, of the book of Ruth were meant to inspire us but not spoon feed us. I appreciated this, because when he was done preaching, I didn't feel content enough. Not in a bad way, don't read this wrong. In a wonderful way, where all I wanted to do was open up Ruth again, pour over it, and continue to see Jesus in the narrative shine. Is there any greater purpose of a pastor then to lead his people to this type of desire? An insatiable desire for more of God. I think not!
Begg's painted picture took us through disobedience as patriarch, Elimelech, gives into fear and leaves Israel (the House of Bread, significantly) in search of a better life. His family meets destruction as Elimelech and his two sons die in this foreign land, leaving his wife (Naomi) and two daughters-in-law (Ruth and
Orprah Orpah) worse than such as women with no protector in a time where this was unheard of. Women had no means for survival, sustenance, protection, or longevity in this time, without a male kin to provide these things for them. And here were three, all widowed, all hungry, all in a foreign land.
At a turning point in the despair, Naomi comes to her senses (which unfortunately her husband didn't do soon enough) and returned to the House of Bread where she knew at least she would be with God's people. She urged her daughters-in-law to go back to their lands, peoples, and gods, as she had nothing to offer them. But here we see Ruth at the point of decision, and she chooses Life in more ways than one. She chooses to not abandon Naomi (arguably in the worst predicament of all, as she is too old to bear children or remarry), and to cling to Naomi's God, the God of Israel (Jesus!), and make Him her own.
But Ruth said, "Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried.May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you."
Ruth has chosen life. Practically, by returning to Israel, and Spiritually, by returning to the LORD. And neither would be taken from her. Upon returning to Israel, Ruth sets out to find work to provide for herself and Naomi, all the while having great faith that God would grant her favour in the eyes of men. Enter: Boaz. Not only is he a wealthy, Godly, fair man in a time of famine and disobedience, but Boaz is a Kinsmen Redeemer. Oh what a beautiful term, when it's applied rightly!! (if you're wondering what the HECK that is, don't worry, I was too, read on :)
Boaz was in a position to redeem the destroyed-by-disobedience. Ruth and Naomi had nothing. They had followed Elimelech to squander, they were unprotected, unprovided for, and had no heir to hope in. Even back in The House of Bread, these women were still starving and alone. Until Boaz, the Kinsmen Redeemer met Ruth. A Kinsmen Redeemer is someone who bares full responsibility for the desolate circumstances of another. Sound familiar? This redeemer pays off any outstanding debt left by the deceased, protects and provides for the surviving widow(s), and in the very sense of the word, redeems them to restoration. He would take on their needs as is own and bare full responsibility for them. He would, in effect, erase their poverty, pain, desolation, insecurity, and provide in every way. That sounds familiar to me.
In Ruth we see our own lives as Christians in so many ways.
We see our conversion, whenever that may have been, as she "entered through the narrow gate" (Matthew 7:13) and chose life, though it meant leaving behind much we knew as familiar.
We see faith, as she trusts in her newly-known God to protect and provide for her.
We see Jesus, our ultimate Kinsmen Redeemer, as he bought us back from death, paying our penalty for sin, restoring the mess we've made, and offering us more than we ever dared dream of.
listen to the message, in English or French, here.