To Preach a Book: The Eighth Sermon

Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
~ 2 Timothy 4:2

Follow one preacher’s journey preaching through a book.

The eighth sermon covers Ruth 3:1-5, which is the opening image and inciting action of the fourth scene. The fourth scene closes the story middle and propels us into the story end scenes.

Sermon Introduction

I opened this sermon quoting one of the most famous opening lines in English literature, which is the opening line of Jane Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice. In the novel, Mrs. Bennett is the harried mother of five single daughters who frantically spends her days in trying to secure rich husbands for them in order to save their family from ruin upon the loss of their estate when Mr. Bennett dies. Some see Naomi this way in this part of Ruth, so I connected the two and hoped to show that Naomi was not a Mrs. Bennett.

I recapped the resolution of the previous scene and drew attention to the revelations that moved the story forward. I also reminded how that scene marked the first sign of upward arc change for Naomi. Though the third scene marked a positive value shift in the story, they main tension of the story is still unresolved because they haven’t yet found rest.

I introduced the fourth scene and how Naomi was awakened to the possibility of finding rest through redemption by the kinsman, Boaz. The scene comes at the midpoint of the book where the unifying theme of finding rest is stated and the theme of covenant faithfulness is highlighted. While Naomi’s actions are risky, they are presented in the narrative as actions of faith.

Verses 1-2 Naomi Recognizes Their State

At the end of the harvest season, Naomi acknowledges the blessings they had received, but also recognizes they are still without rest, that settled dwelling in peace and safety with abundant provision. It is not bleak though, because their current state also includes an opportunity because of Boaz their kinsman.

Verses 3-5 Naomi Lays Out a Plan

Naomi instructs Ruth what to do to request redemption from Boaz. The plan is odd to us because we are not familiar with the ancient customs, but we need not read into it anything untoward. Ruth has been presented and maintained as a wisdom character of the virtuous woman. Naomi’s plan and her actions do not conflict with that. When compared with Proverbs, we can note contrasts between Ruth and the strange woman.

Most likely, Ruth had maintained wearing her widow’s garments to this point, which would have marked her as unavailable. Naomi’s instructions to her seem odd on the surface, but she’s probably instructing her to put off her widow’s garments and present herself first and only to Boaz. Ruth responds faithfully and does as instructed.

Sermon Conclusion

Naomi’s actions are seen as faithful because she is responding to the recognition of God’s providence working for their relief. By the end of chapter 1, Naomi was without hope, but this passage in the middle of the book marks the return to hope for Naomi. I concluded by making practical application for our congregation about how we tend to withdraw when we lose hope, and yet faith and hope moves us out of the safety shadow.


You can listen to the eighth sermon here.

Up Next

Next we will look at the ninth sermon in the series

About Jeff Short