Happily Ever After
September 25, 2020
“And they lived happily ever after.”
That’s how fairy tales are supposed to end. We like it when a story has many twists and turns, and just when you feel like all is lost, somehow the good guys pull it together and win the day.
Life isn’t a fairy tale. We cheer when the handsome knight rescues the beautiful princess from the fire-breathing dragon. There aren’t many knights to be found in real life, and they aren’t all good-looking, and some of them run from the battle. Not every princess wants to be rescued. Sometimes the dragon wins.
Life isn’t a fairy tale
That’s how it goes in a non-fairy-tale world.
But there are times when things work out in the end. Sometimes the man and the woman end up together despite all the twists and turns of fate. That’s what happens in the book of Ruth. What starts with sadness ends with joy. In the beginning, the man and the woman don’t know each other. In fact, there is almost no way they could meet, much less become husband and wife.
But that’s what happened.
The last paragraph of the book brings everything together, making it one of the greatest short stories ever told. But you must read all the way to the end because there is a final twist in the last few verses that would have flabbergasted Ruth and Boaz. When God gets involved, “happily ever after” takes on a whole new meaning. The “ever after” part stretches all the way from Ruth and Boaz to another young couple in a Bethlehem barnyard 1000 years later.
It started in Bethlehem!
Talk about happy endings!
This one will blow your mind.
The last few verses of Ruth 4 introduce us to three scenes that show us the happy ending God always intended. (In this message, I am following an outline from Iain Campbell.)
Here Comes the Bride!
Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. He slept with her, and the Lord granted conception to her, and she gave birth to a son (Ruth 4:13).
That was fast.
After the buildup of the preceding chapters, the writer uses only one sentence to summarize the wedding, the consummation, and the birth of their son.
Three things happen one right after the other:
Boaz marries Ruth.
Ruth gets pregnant.
Ruth gives birth to a son.
Why aren’t we told more about these joyful events? Perhaps because the events themselves point to something much greater. This book is about more than an ancient love story. After Boaz and Ruth end up as husband and wife, she gets pregnant and gives birth to a son. Those events, momentous as they are, aren’t the main point.
More than a love story
God is up to something.
Verse 13 reminds us how God works through the ordinary to accomplish his purposes. It’s not as if Boaz said to Ruth, “Let’s get married and make a baby, so you can be the great-grandmother of King David.” Neither of them knew a thing about David. Still less could they have imagined a baby born to a virgin a thousand years later who would be the Savior of the world. Boaz and Ruth weren’t aiming to be part of Jesus’ family tree in Matthew 1.
They were in love, and they got married.
Then they had a baby.
That’s how it’s supposed to happen.
The book of Ruth doesn’t mention bridal showers, bachelor parties, or any details of the wedding day. I am sure it was a happy celebration, but that fact isn’t mentioned. God brought this unlikely couple together as part of his larger plan. When they consummated their marriage, they had no clue of the larger meaning. They were simply doing what married couples have done since the beginning of time.
God is up to something
That’s how life works.
We take the next step in front of us, we face unexpected obstacles, we walk by faith, and then we leave the rest in the hands of God. Beware the temptation of trying to figure God out. You can’t, and it leads to wasted time and missed opportunities.
A pastor friend wrote to Dallas Willard about certain problems he was facing in his church. He wrote a long letter, hoping the well-known author could give him some wisdom. When he didn’t hear back immediately, my friend castigated himself for writing at such length to a busy man he hardly knew. Days and weeks passed, and my friend forgot about the letter. Then one day a thin envelope showed up. Dallas Willard had written back. Not only was it a short letter, it was only one paragraph. It went something like this:
Don’t try to figure God out
Thank you for your letter. Don’t worry so much about what others think. Just get up each day and do what you believe God wants you to do.
My friend said it was exactly what he needed to hear. Sometimes the best advice is the simplest. Ruth and Boaz needed to get married and have a baby. That was God’s will for them. They didn’t know the bigger picture, and they didn’t try to figure it out.
Here Comes the Baby!
The women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you without a family redeemer today. May his name become well known in Israel. He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. Indeed, your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” Naomi took the child, placed him on her lap, and became a mother to him. The neighbor women said, “A son has been born to Naomi,” and they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David (Ruth 4:14-17).
This is Naomi’s happy ending.
When we remember that the book begins and ends with Naomi, we get a clue to the bigger picture. The woman who said she went away full and came back empty now has her arms filled with her grandson. The woman who called herself “Bitter” now rejoices in God’s provision.
This is Naomi’s happy ending
The women of Bethlehem make two important proclamations: First, they call Obed the “family redeemer.” That’s the same word Boaz used to describe himself. It means this little boy will carry on the name of Elimelech and Mahlon, the father and son who died in Moab. When this little boy grows up, he will protect Naomi in her old age. More than that, he will “renew” Naomi by giving her hope in her declining years. She will die, but the family line will go on.
We come and we go, but God’s purposes span the generations.
Second, they call Ruth better than seven sons. What does that mean? After leaving her family in Moab, Ruth receives a new family in a new homeland. Because she pledged her loyalty to Naomi and to Naomi’s God, she received the blessings of the covenant God made with Israel. Her “loyal love” for Naomi pictures God’s “loyal love” for his children. That’s better (and far more remarkable) than having seven sons.
Better than seven sons
The women name the little boy “Obed,” which is short for Obadiah, “servant of the Lord.” He will serve God by serving Naomi in her old age. As the years pass, he will marry, and his wife will give birth to a son named Jesse. And Jesse will have a son named David.
Obed not only serves his own generation, but his grandson will grow up to be Israel’s greatest king.
Here Comes the Blessing!
Some people have trouble with the way the book ends. Let’s look at it:
Now these are the family records of Perez:
Perez fathered Hezron,
Hezron fathered Ram,
Ram fathered Amminadab,
Amminadab fathered Nahshon,
Nahshon fathered Salmon,
Salmon fathered Boaz,
Boaz fathered Obed,
Obed fathered Jesse,
and Jesse fathered David (Ruth 4:18-22).
That doesn’t seem very exciting to us. It’s not how we would end a book like Ruth. This is where we would insert, “Ruth and Boaz lived happily ever after.” We like our fairy tales to have happy endings.
The book ends with a genealogy.
What’s up with that?
We like happy endings
God wants us to know something bigger is happening here. We don’t know for a fact that Ruth and Boaz lived happily ever after. They probably did, and no doubt they enjoyed raising their son Obed and watching the joy in Naomi’s eyes as she played with her grandson. We assume that’s what happened, and there is no reason to think otherwise.
But the Bible doesn’t mention it.
The hero of the book isn’t Ruth or Boaz or Naomi or Obed.
The hero of the story is God!
But think about this. How many miracles did we read about in this book? None. How many times did God speak audibly? Zero. There are no burning bushes, and no voice speaks from heaven. The waters don’t part, and the walls don’t come tumbling down. For that matter, the ax-head doesn’t float, and the dead are not raised. Life in Bethlehem continues as it has from the beginning. There are no miracles in the book of Ruth.
That’s the wonder of this story.
God accomplishes his purposes through the normal outworking of life. The story starts on a somber note, with a famine, an ill-advised trip, and three graves in Moab. When two widows show up in Bethlehem, their future seems bleak. Then one day, seemingly by chance, Ruth ends up in the field of Boaz. From that “lucky” break, the story turns in a new direction. A friendship blossoms into a romance. A midnight encounter leads to a proposal. A clever deal gives Boaz the right to marry Ruth. Then Obed is born.
Where is the miracle in all this? The answer is, the miracle is nowhere and everywhere. God was at work behind the scenes, orchestrating every detail so that each person in the story does exactly what they want to do. Yet they all end up exactly where God always intended they would be. The whole story is an “ordinary miracle,” which is how God works in your life and in mine.
The genealogy is the moral of the story
That brings us to the genealogy at the end of the book. What seems to be aimlessly tacked on shows us the moral of the story. God worked in unlikely ways through unexpected events to bring a Moabite woman named Ruth into King David’s family tree.
But there’s much more going on here.
Did you know this genealogy appears in the New Testament? When Matthew wrote his gospel, he began this way: “This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). That makes Jesus a physical descendant of the two greatest names in Jewish history. But there were many generations between Abraham and David. How do we bridge that gap?
Matthew 1:3-6 repeats the genealogy from Ruth 4:18-22.
That’s why Ruth ends with a family tree.
When this story began, Ruth was nowhere to be found. She is in Moab, little knowing (or dreaming) of the strange path her life was about to take. But God knew all along. Nothing that happens in this story just “happens.” It’s all part of God’s plan. As the story ends, Ruth has faded into the background. She and Boaz are raising their son Obed under Naomi’s watchful eye.
A river of history flows from Genesis to Revelation
That’s all we know because that’s all we can see.
A river of connected history flows from Genesis to Revelation, spanning thousands of years and hundreds of generations. Though the Bible contains 66 books written by many different authors over 1500 years, it has but one message: God’s plan to bring salvation to the world through Jesus Christ. Everything in the Bible fits around that great theme.
We learn an important lesson from all this. We rarely see all God intends by what happens to us. Just as Ruth knew nothing about David and Jesus, we know nothing about how God will use the good and bad that happens to us 500 years down the line.
We rarely see all God intends by what happens to us
Some things make no sense now.
They will still make no sense on the day we die.
But God will make sense of them later.
God has no loose ends and no unfinished business. But it often seems that way to us. Ruth’s story teaches us God knows what he is doing even when we don’t have a clue.
Christ Our Kinsman Redeemer
Where do we find Christ in Ruth? He is the Kinsman Redeemer, pictured by Boaz, who willingly redeemed both the land and the woman he loved. In the Old Testament, the Kinsman Redeemer had to meet three requirements. First, he must be qualified to redeem. Second, he must be able to redeem. Third, he must be willing to redeem. What Boaz did in a small way, Jesus does in a big way. He was qualified by virtue of his incarnation. He was able by virtue of his deity. He proved his willingness by his death on the cross.
God has no loose ends
Matthew 1 tells us Jesus Christ had roots. He had a family tree. He didn’t just drop out of heaven, he didn’t appear magically on the scene, but at the perfect moment Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Now add Ruth 4 to Matthew 1, and we can begin to see the bigger picture.
I said earlier that Matthew repeats the genealogy of Ruth 4. That’s true, but Matthew makes two additions Ruth omits:
Salmon fathered Boaz by Rahab,
Boaz fathered Obed by Ruth.
He adds the names of the two women involved: Rahab the harlot and Ruth the Moabitess. Why did he do that? The Jews didn’t ordinarily put women in a genealogy. The writer of Ruth didn’t see fit to add them. So what’s going on in Matthew 1? We should note that Tamar is mentioned (v. 3), and so is Bathsheba (who is called “Uriah’s wife” in v. 6). All four are unlikely people. Of the four, only Ruth modeled an exemplary character.
Jesus was not born in a hazmat suit
Matthew wants to show that our Lord came from a very human background. In a sense, he was born on the “other side of the tracks” in the wrong part of town. Jesus was not ashamed to come from a very imperfect family tree, one that included a prostitute and a woman from a nation founded on incest. It’s not the most savory picture in the world.
The hero of this story is God. His grace shines through the blackest of human sin as he chooses flawed men and women and places them in Jesus’ family tree.
Are you intimidated by Jesus?
Many people are. They connect him with religious paraphernalia—big sanctuaries, stained glass, beautiful choir, pipe organs, formal prayers, and all the rest. When they look at the trappings, it’s very intimidating to them. They have a hard time relating to Jesus as someone who cares about them.
Jesus can save you just as you are!
This genealogy is in the Bible to let us know Jesus had a background a lot like yours and mine. He called himself “the friend of sinners,” and he felt at home with drunkards and prostitutes. He didn’t wear a hazmat suit like a scientist studying some dread disease. He put on human flesh and moved into our neighborhood. Jesus joined a race of “pathetic losers” so he could redeem those who believe in him.
My final point should greatly encourage you: No matter what your past, Jesus can save you.
Any murderers reading these words? Any prostitutes? Any adulterers? Any liars? Any cheaters? Any angry people? Any thieves? Any hypocrites?
Good News! No matter what you’ve done in the past, Jesus can save you.
Jesus’ story starts where Ruth’s story ends–in Bethlehem!
If a prostitute can be saved, you can be saved.
If a murderer can be forgiven, you can be forgiven.
If a foreigner can join God’s family, there is hope for you.
With that in view, we end our journey through the book of Ruth. Out of these “ordinary miracles” God prepared the way for Ruth to enter the family tree of Jesus. His story starts where her story ends–in Bethlehem.
Now we see clearly how God weaves the ultimate “happily ever after.” Be encouraged, child of God. No matter how difficult your journey has been, God has promised an eternally happy ending for his children.
If you know Jesus, the best is yet to come!