This past Lord’s Day, we concluded an eight-week sermon series on the book of Ruth. I entitled this series, The Search for a Redeemer. Blessed be the Name of the Lord, we found the Redeemer! He has come, and He is here.
Before diving into a new series, two reflections are in order.
First, the book of Ruth is of inestimable value to men and women on the hunt for hope, encouragement, and assurance that evil has not – and will not – overcome good in God’s world. This brief but remarkable piece of ancient Hebrew literature begins as a narrative of need and develops into a book of blessing.
Along the way from destitution to delight, Ruth highlights several profound biblical themes. There is nobility in godliness, ably demonstrated in the lives of Ruth and Boaz (2:11-13; 3:10-15; 4:10). Hope grounded in the one true and living God – He who is loyal and unchanging – is justifiable and fruitful (1:16, 17). God supplies all things to His people, including (and especially) a redeemer, to meet their every need (4:13-15). God meets the needs of His church – His set-apart society – through the faithfulness and lovingkindness of human agents (4:11, 12, 16-22).
Through each of these themes, we read and meditate upon Ruth as anticipating the person and work of Christ the Messiah. The Lord Jesus is the noble Man of godliness par excellence. Christ “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2), persevering in hope grounded on God’s Word, bore much fruit by accomplishing for us “redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us” (Eph. 1:7, 8).
Jesus Savior of sinners came into the world not to condemn the world, but to redeem a people of God’s free choice for everlasting doxology in His life-giving presence. He is our mighty Redeemer. Through Christ our Prophet, Priest, and King, the church has all things needful for faith and godliness. By His Word and Spirit, we know God’s will for the salvation of mankind. By His shed blood and ongoing intercession, we enjoy full and free access to the Father. By His authoritative design and decree, the church endures through all tribulation and distress. He is faithful and loving to supply all our needs.
Praise be to God, the God of Ruth, Boaz, and Naomi, the God of Obed, Jesse, and David. Blessed be the Name of “Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).
Second, there are several resources I would recommend to anyone wanting to do a deeper study of Ruth. I have prepared an annotated list below. If you have questions about any of these resources or how to get a hold of them, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Ruth & Esther: There Is a Redeemer and Sudden Reversals by David Strain (Christian Focus Publications: 2018) is a brief but helpful book for growing your acquaintance with these Old Testament books (and the characters featured in their narratives). Because it is largely a collection of sermons put into book format, I did not use this volume for sermon preparation (lest I inadvertently regurgitate the author’s material). However, the Focus on the Bible series from Christian Focus Publications is an excellent series in general, and this contribution from Pastor David Strain (First Presbyterian Church of Jackson, MS) is no exception. ($11 here)
- Faithful God: An Exposition of the Book of Ruth by Sinclair Ferguson (Evangelical Press: 2013) is a brief book written in Dr. Ferguson’s signature prose and full of application to the New Testament. Dr. Ferguson focuses on God’s providential involvement in the narrative. ($9.71 here)
- Ruth: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the Old Testament by Daniel I. Block (Zondervan: 2015) is a more technical exegetical commentary that deals directly with the Hebrew text. However, Professor Daniel Block (Wheaton College) writes in an accessible and engaging manner. The formatting of the book is designed with students in mind, and it can sometimes look like a reference book. I found Block more persuasive than not on contested exegetical points, but I did not accept his conclusions in the whole. Nevertheless, this was my primary exegetical commentary. ($21.99 here)
- Ruth: From Alienation to Monarchy by Yael Ziegler (Koren Publishers: 2015) is a Jewish literary-theological commentary that engages heavily with rabbinic interpretation without being beholden to eccentric speculations. This commentary is insightful in many ways and well worth the attention of discerning Christian readers. Dr. Yael Ziegler (Herzog Academic College; Matan Jerusalem) writes beautifully, possesses a command of literary interpretation, takes the biblical text seriously as the Word of God, and keeps the themes of redemption, royalty/kingship, and God-honoring lovingkindness in the foreground. It is from Dr. Ziegler that I picked up the moniker “book of blessing” for Ruth. Christians who read this book should be able to “read the Messiah between the lines.” ($28.29 here)
- Practical Expositions of the Whole Books of Ruth and Esther; with Three Sermons on the Duties of Parents to their Children by George Lawson (Wm. S. Rentoul: 1870) is a nineteenth century Presbyterian commentary I would love to read. I did not know about it until after I completed my sermon series, but it looks profitable in terms of practical application to Christian families. (free online here) Note: After seeing this blog post, Matthew Vogan of Reformation Scotland recommended that I check out Ruth: Her Story for Today by Keith M. Watkins (Free Presbyterian Press: 2008), available for purchase here ($10.77).
- “An Adjusted Symmetrical Structuring of Ruth” by A. Boyd Luter and Richard O. Rigsby (Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 39/1, March 1996) fleshes out the brilliance of Ruth’s literary structure. This article would be of interest to anyone who desires to get into matters of chiasm, parallelism, and literary structure. (free online here) See also “The Chiastic Structure of Ruth 2” by the same authors, found in the Bulletin for Biblical Research 3 (1993) here.
- “Ruth and the Structure of Covenant History” by Harold Fisch (Vetus Testamentum XXXII, 4, 1982) synchronizes the narrative of Ruth with the broader “Ruth corpus,” which Fisch defines as including the Lot and Judah narratives. This article forces readers to consider one proposed pattern of salvation history as it finds expression in Ruth. Set in relief against the relatively tragic narratives of Lot and Judah, the book of Ruth is even more impressive as an account of the righteousness of God and of the recipients of His grace.
- “Literary Structure and Theology in the Book of Ruth” by Leif Hongisto (Andrews University Seminar Studies, Spring 1985, Vol. 23, No. 1) explores the nexus between literary structure and theology in Ruth by examining the chiastic structures of chapter one and of the entire book. Taken together with the other resources here, this article further informs a thoughtful biblical theological appraisal of the book of Ruth. (free online here)