As every family knows, any road trip of a duration over 30 minutes will eventually include someone asking, “Are we there yet?” The closer we get to the final destination, anticipation grows and so can impatience, but the journey is worth it when we reach our final destination.
Transitions in life are the same. The journey that began with an ending and traveled through the space in-between, ends with a new beginning, and as we approach it our anticipation grows as can our impatience.
This Sunday we learn from the story of Naomi and Ruth how God is working through the entire process of transitions to accomplish in us more than we might imagine when we wait on Him.
- I will resist the temptation to rush ahead of God on the threshold of a new beginning.
- I will lean into and trust God’s transforming work in my life through transition.
- I will re-establish my identity by who I am in Christ.
Full Sermon Script:
If you’re like most of us, meaning breathing and with a heartbeat, you recognize that life is full of transitions.
Think back to your transition from high school to college, from having your bills paid to being responsible for them, or single to married, or from employed to unemployed, from one culture to another
Life is not a straight line …
It’s not I-5 to LA but Hwy 1
There are rock slides and cliffs and dark mists and slippery curves and some hairpin turns
sometimes you’re forced to go backwards in order to go forwards.
Life is a constant state of change and change often leads to transition.
Week One we saw that Transitions begin with an ending
Naomi left her home, lost her husband, her sons, one of her daughters-in-law, her identity
Before something new can begin, something else has to end
Lean into a seemingly silent God
Last Week was the liminal period, the space in-between what was and what’s to come
Trust an unknown future to an all-knowing God
When you don’t know what to do next, do the next best thing
Our endurance opens us to God’s faithfulness
This week we wrap up our series with the third stage of Transitions …
we end with a beginning
Some of you are like “FINALLY!”
“Closing Time” written by Dan Wilson of the band Semisonic
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”
This quote is attributed to Seneca (ca. 4 BC – 65 AD) who was a philosopher from the Roman Imperial Period
the new almost always requires parting with something that was new once but has since become old.
Embarking on a new path requires ending an old walk
Why this is important … When we mistake transition simply for change, we miss the inner, deeper transformation and we are left reliving and/or repeating the past.
Naomi and Ruth have found hope in chapter 2
hope helps us dream that there is more than the here and now, the situation we find ourselves in
v1-5 A new relationship begins with Naomi’s prompting, although in a questionable way with motives that aren’t entirely clear
Ruth 3:3-4 “Wash, put on perfume, and get dressed in your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.”
the whispers of God … or matching making mother-in-law?
Now I know some of you moms are thinking “well if they don’t make it happen someone has to!”
Just to be clear … The beginning God is leading you into is not found/accomplished with a “whatever it takes” approach
The ends don’t justify the means (that a desired result is so good or important that any method, even a morally bad one, may be used to achieve it)
This is where we can face the temptation to “make” something happen
v6-9 Ruth takes the initiative to make clear to Boaz why she is there.
Ruth does what she’s told … but the story doesn’t take a Hollywood turn
Ruth 3:9 “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family.”
Spread the corner of your garment
The word for garment is the Hebrew word for wing. It’s the same word used Ruth, in 2:12, where Boaz says to Ruth, “May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”
The same word is found in Ezekiel 16:8
God is describing Israel as a young maiden that He took as a wife. “Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your naked body. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine.”
The guardian-redeemer, aka the next of kin
In essence “You are the one who can redeem us from the place we’re at, our family name from being lost. I want you to fill that role for me. I want to be your wife.”
Ruth is reaching out on the edge of what she hopes is a new beginning
v10-15 – Boaz is a little surprised … you a younger woman interested in me …
Ruth 3:12 Although it is true that I am a guardian-redeemer of our family, there is another who is more closely related than I.
In essence, that according to custom, there is someone else who is first in line and I won’t be able to proceed until all things are duly settled with him.
New beginnings don’t always go as planned, or hoped for … there may be detours challenges, obstructions
Ruth 3:18 “…Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens…”
Chapter 3 ends with waiting, once again …
What’s at the most annoying question you get on a family drive?
Are we there yet?
Kids begin squirming in their seats, maybe crying, and constantly demand to know “Are we there yet?!”
All the energy the child is expending will not change the outcome of the car ride. It’s not going to get you there faster because they complain and scream more.
We know that, we tell them that, we threaten them with ……
Yet how often is that our attitude on the edge of a new beginning? We want out of the in-between, the liminal space
Romans 8:25 “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”
Explain what’s happening …
Mr. So & So (the language used) is not willing to redeem Ruth because it would put his reputation at risk, the inheritance of his family at risk
Ruth was a Moabite, a foreigner, an outcast in the community
Ruth 4:9-10 9Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelek (el·ē·meh’·lek), Kilion (kil·yōn’) and Mahlon (makh·lōn’). 10I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, Mahlon’s (makh·lōn’) widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from his hometown. Today you are witnesses!”
I have acquired Ruth…as my wife
Back in chapter 1, Ruth made a decision that had to feel at the moment like giving up on her best chance of marriage by leaving her native land of Moab and leaning into the God of Israel.
Ruth put God first, He brought her more than she could have imagined.
In the beginning of 2017 God spoke something very clear to me
I was three years into my liminal period, my “In-Between”
I had been working for about five months in a sales job
It was a sense that my “wandering” would be coming to a close, I would not be ending the year where it began
No job prospects, no relational prospects
I was reading Job, and 42:12 jumped out at me … “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part…”
Five months later a job offer was made … which took five months to actually happen … I actually had given up on it
November of that year I met Jamie who is now my wife
Ruth 4:13-15 13So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he made love to her, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. 14The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! 15He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”
the Lord enabled her to conceive
an ending of Ruth’s from chapter 1 … with the death of her husband, so went the dream of motherhood
but now a new beginning
Praise be to the Lord who has not left you without a guardian-redeemer
Naomi was the one who said in chapter one, the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me… the LORD has brought me home again empty… the LORD has testified against me (Ruth 1:20-21).
We can learn from what she learned. Even when we can’t figure out what God is doing and it all seems so desperate, He knows what He is doing.
Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
They’re so thankful that they name their son Obed, which means “worship”
Ruth and Boaz remind us of all of this, that God is at work in our transitions of our life.
From hopeless to hopeful … from despair to worship … from an end to a beginning …
He is TRANSFORMING us
Little did they realize that through their family line would come Israel’s greatest king David and in a matter of generations, Jesus, the Messiah.
Obed was the father of Jesse who was the father of David. All of a sudden, we realize that all along something far greater has been in play than we could imagine.
God was not only at work for Naomi and Ruth, He was preparing for the coming of the greatest king that Israel would have, David. And the name of David carries with it the hope of the Messiah, the new age, peace, righteousness, freedom from pain and crying and grief and guilt.
There is a bigger theme, however, that runs throughout Ruth, and that is the theme of REDEMPTION.
If we were to ask people on the streets of Pleasanton, Dublin, Livermore, San Ramon, what does redemption mean, definitions could include
recycling, buying back something or making up for a past wrong.
It means to “buy” or “buy back”, to change for the better, to release from blame or debt, to free from captivity
In chapter 3 and 4 we see the word “redeem” or “redeemer”, the idea of redemption 14 times.
In the NT, the Greek word used for redeemed has a literal meaning of “a ransoming, deliverance” or “a rescue” and that is exactly what Jesus did by giving His own life on the cross
Our salvation is the ultimate redemption, or new beginning, and through it God brings new beginnings throughout our life IN CHRIST
God has always been about redeeming people and giving new beginnings.
The story began with Naomi’s endings, and it ends with Naomi’s beginning.
It began with death and ends with new life.
Verse 17 is the great destination of Naomi’s long and twisted road. “And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, ‘A son has been born to Naomi.'”
Not to Ruth, but to Naomi! Why? To show that it was not true, what Naomi had said in 1:20-21 “…the Almighty has made my life very bitter. 21I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”
In Transitions we learn to wait and trust in God
Transformation is the true destination of Transition.
There are no guidebooks, no step by step processes, no smart maps to guide you through
Transformation is not a formula … when we neglect the process and instead try to copy an outcome, we will fail to get what we were after
we cannot plan our way into transformation, only live into it
The structure on which it’s built could never have been considered until the situation changed beyond recognition. It was not just an external change, but an internal shift
We can get so focused on what’s next when the real transformation is within us
Transition is the process by which one “dies to a new life”
Sounds somewhat familiar: dying to the old and becoming something new.
It’s the idea of identity
We often refer to ourselves in terms of what we do and not who we are.
I am a nurse, a teacher, a waiter, a doctor, a pastor, a husband, a wife, C-level executive, an “influencer.”
And our endings are often so difficult because we had identified ourselves by that relationship, or job, or social status, or whatever
Interestingly, God’s story of humanity never identifies us in terms of what we do but by WHOSE WE ARE
Our identity is the heart of who we are. The Bible says a lot to say about identities.
Loved. Forgiven. Adopted. Redeemed. Chosen. Free. Made New. Made Alive.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone (endings), the new is here (beginnings)!
Transitions are an opportunity to re-establish that the defining identity of our lives is not our circumstances, but God.
For the Christ-follower, transitions are not opportunities to “reinvent” ourselves but to re-identify with who we are IN CHRIST.
Author and professor Alan Noble wrote, “those in the church could be reminded that their identity is hidden in Christ, in His finished work on the cross…that identity doesn’t change, even though it changes us, molds our hearts, transforms our minds and renews our spirits.”
On the surface our identity is always changing, but God is above the shifting sands of identities. He gives us the foundation of identity IN CHRIST.
It is ultimately our identity in Christ that grounds us through seasons of Transitions
Focusing on my identity and realizing that NOTHING in this world can change who I am or whose I am, is the bedrock of weather the changes of transitions
Transitions are opportunities to re-identify with this: Jesus loves me, died for me and has redeemed my life through His.
our identity is not wrapped up in anything but Him
If my identity is in anything but Christ, any change can be a threat to me
If my identity is that I am a son/daughter of God, then the changes of life may knock me, pummel me, pound me, but they don’t wreck me or derail me
Beginnings are about identity
Apart from Christ it’s a restart
In Christ it’s a renewal
In Christ the beginning that opens before us we step into renewed … transformed … not defined by circumstance or situation … but by the transformation deep inside us by an all loving God
There is a saying many think is in the Bible, but was actually popularized by Benjamin Franklin in the late 1700’s, which says that, “God helps those who help themselves.” This statement is indicative of how many think … but it’s not in the Bible.
We are not always in control of the outcome of Transitions
We’ve seen in the story of Naomi and Ruth that leaning into God in the stages of Transitions, especially the unknown, is not passive … we do take an active role … but God is the One at work
We all are in similar Transitions to that of Ruth and Naomi.
We may be temporarily blessed, may have food, and may have shelter, but we are still held to our situation and must be redeemed in order to truly be free.
We are separated from God because of our broken, sin nature. We as human beings need a Boaz to redeem us, to buy us back, out of the slavery of our sin nature. Our Boaz is Jesus Christ. Jesus paid the high price of redemption through His death on the cross.
Like Naomi and Ruth, we cannot buy our own redemption. In an act of selfless, unconditional grace, God, in a similar fashion to Boaz but on a much grander scale, helps people who cannot help themselves through the person and work of Jesus Christ.
For some, we need let go of the identities we built for ourselves, that depend on others or things or position, and lean back into our identity in Christ.
For some here today, maybe the new beginning you’re on the precipice of is embracing and stepping into a relationship with Christ