I love when my children come home from school with art projects. It’s the season when gnomes and snowflakes find their way onto my refrigerator. Every holiday season brings new art projects, but the goal of each is the same: creative expression through glue, popsicle sticks, paint, and cotton balls.
That’s how individual books of the Bible work too. Different human authors, different writing styles, different themes—yet all working to paint unique pictures of God’s glory. Each book is a God-breathed work of art magnifying His greatness. This conviction is what stirs pastors to the good work of expositional preaching.
One divine art project worth preaching is the Old Testament historical narrative of Ruth. Why should pastors consider preaching through the book of Ruth?
It’s beautifully written and theologically robust
Ruth is a Holy Spirit-inspired work of art. It checks boxes that humanity is magnetically drawn toward: love, heartache, kindness, redemption. These themes are brought to life in a story that goes from emptiness to fullness because of the “I’m-sticking-with-you” loyalty of a daughter-in-law.
Seriously, stop now and read the book. Isn’t it well-written? I’d say beautifully written. Not only is it beautiful, but theologically robust. Two major theological realities wind through the narrative.
The first is redemption. The words redeem, redeemer, and redemption appear 23 times in the book. In one out of every four verses you will find yourself stepping through this thematic river. Of course, Boaz plays the kinsman-redeemer in the story. His work of redemption sums up two Old Testament practices: property redemption and levirate marriage—neither of which, surprisingly enough, were required by law. What kindness!
Even more significantly, Boaz serves as a type of Christ—one who would purchase sinners through self-sacrifice. The book ends with this aim as it connects the importance of this new family, Boaz and Ruth, with the Davidic line—the one by whom the Messiah would descend. If for nothing else, preach this book because it anticipates the Savior.
The second doctrine worth noting is providence. A church member gave me a miniature gavel recently, tongue-and-cheek, “to straighten up unruly deacons.” Judges use gavels. They’re declarative. They can be used to punctuate proclamations in the court. In some ways, the book of Ruth puts God on trial.
Ruth 1:20-21 says, “She said to them, ‘Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?’”
Providence answers the question, “Who oversees the universe?” Answer: God. Preaching through the book of Ruth will help your congregation see His providence is ultimately kind toward His people, even when it feels harsh. Naomi leaves for Moab full and comes home empty by her own testimony, but she wasn’t alone. She had Ruth. And by the end of the story, the women of Bethlehem proclaim that Ruth is better than seven sons (Ruth 4:15)! There is real pain and heartache in this story, but there is also real filling and redemption.
It’s relevant to our congregations
We are pastoring in a world of confusion. One area of life where this is evident is the confusion surrounding gender. The book of Ruth is an antidote for robust biblical masculinity and femininity. Study the character of Boaz and you will find a picture of the strength and biblical masculinity. He protects Ruth’s reputation from stain after the proposal on the threshing floor (Ruth 3:14) and protects her from possible threats in his fields (Ruth 2:8-9).
Then take Ruth. She is a Proverbs 31 woman. At risk to her own well-being, she leaves her people and her gods to cling to Naomi and Yahweh. She nurtured Naomi in her darkest hour. In the face of suffering and sacrifice, Ruth clings to Naomi to see her countenance transformed—from “I’m empty” to “I’m full.” And this is how the story ends:
“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’” (Ruth 4:14).
Pastor, Ruth is a work of art worth putting on the refrigerator door of your congregation’s hearts. Read it, study it, then preach it!