The following message is based on Ruth 4:1-17 and was delivered at the Central Schwenkfelder Church of Worcester, PA on December 4, 2011
You have heard the statement: “All’s well that ends well.” It can mean that the end justifies the means. Unfortunately, some use this quip as a justification for unethical behavior. It may also mean that a given situation, if the end result is good, then what it took to get there was worth it. Another meaning could be: “A risky enterprise is justified so long as it turns out well in the end. But for today’s purposes, it speaks of God’s ability to turn a horrible situation better. The final chapter of the book of Ruth can affirm that statement.
How, might this figure of speech describe the book of Ruth? Although Naomi and Ruth lost their men to death, God was not through with them. This is a story of God’s provision; an account of answered prayer; a story of Christ. Notice our thought for meditation from Ruth 4:14: “Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer.” Consider the following lessons as we think about “All’s Well that Ends Well.”
I. LIFE OFTENTIMES LEADS US DOWN A DIFFICULT ROAD.
You may remember from our study of chapter one that Naomi and Ruth lost their husbands in the land of Moab. They were left without men to care for them. In that day, it was equal to taking a vow of poverty. So in an act of faith, Naomi determines to return to Bethlehem, the village of her late husband, where she might find a kinsmen redeemer, someone to take the responsibility of caring and providing for her.
Ruth loves Naomi; to such the extent that Ruth vows to follow her mother-in-law to Bethlehem with the words found in 1:16: “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. 17 “Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.” Such words speak of Ruth’s devotion to Naomi, and ultimately her devotion to God.
In chapter two, we read of Naomi and Ruth’s trek to Bethlehem and how the two women reside there. In an act of desperation for food, Ruth goes out to glean in the fields, according to the provision for the poor, according to Leviticus 19. In doing so, she meets Boaz, a distant relative of Naomi’s. Boaz is a righteous man who notices Ruth’s work ethic and hears of her devotion to Naomi, which he also interprets as proof of devotion to the God of Israel.
In chapter three, Ruth comes home to Naomi and tells her of her meeting Boaz. Naomi identifies him as a kinsmen redeemer, one who under Israelite law is obligated to care for needy family members. Ruth later approaches Boaz and essentially asks him to fulfill this obligation by taking her as his wife. This is seen as an act of love towards Naomi, as well as to Boaz. Boaz says, there is one relative who qualifies better for this role, so he promises to investigate the possibility with him. That is where our story takes us, in Ruth 4.
Of special note is the hand of God, orchestrating all of this for His glory and the betterment of Ruth and Naomi. Whenever you read Old Testament narratives, you must be keenly aware that God is the main character, moving and working behind the scenes. His will is perfect and His grace is sufficient for those in the story. That reminds me of the lesson that…
II. THE LORD KNOWS OUR NEEDS AND ORCHESTRATES OUR LIVES.
In Ruth 4:8, the kinsman-redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it yourself.” And he removed his sandal. 9 Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion and Mahlon. 10 I have also acquired Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon’s 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 the town records. Today you are witnesses!”
In essence, the man that most qualifies as the kinsmen redeemer gives up his right. He is not named in our passage. He is given the equivalent: “so and so.” You know that when one is named, “so and so,” their name is really not significant. At first, he wanted to buy the land made available to him. But once Boaz stated that the responsibility of caring for two women came with the land, the man wanted no part of it. One commentator stated that the absence of a name was the author’s way of avoiding memorializing a selfish person. That is who he was, one who was not willing to buy Naomi’s land right, nor care for these two women.
So the ceremonial actions are done and Boaz states his intentions of acquiring the land and taking Ruth as his wife. This is really the beginning of the happy ending. For we see a series of lessons that we should take to heart as God’s people. First of all, All’s well that ends well, when God is upon His throne. God is sovereign and He rules over every event, every circumstance. He orchestrates our lives. He calls the end from the beginning, as Isaiah 46:10 says: “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure….”
And what’s amazing is that such a powerful creator God, has our best interests in mind. Psalm 121: “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Although Naomi and Ruth encountered tragedy, the Lord used it to orchestrate a greater blessing and provide for Naomi and Ruth. God was the giver of good things, if Naomi and Ruth would be patient enough to see it. God is always at work for our best interests, if Christ is our Lord. James 1:2: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
And as if we needed to be reminded that God does not give us bad things, but only good things, or those things that will ultimately turn out for the good, James 1:17: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” So in order to handle all adversity, the first step is to ask God: “What do you want to teach me through this circumstance?” Someone once said: “In His providence, God knows how much joy and sorrow, how much pleasure and pain, how much prosperity and poverty is proper for His child. He knows the correct balance of sunshine and storm, the precise mixture of darkness and light it takes to perfect a son.”
Secondly, All’s well that ends well, when we pray. Naomi and Ruth prayed throughout this ordeal and the Lord heard every one of their prayers. They trusted Him, regardless of the outcome. Their faith is a testimony to us. James 1:5 states: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” All’s well that ends well when we trust Him in prayer.
III. THE LORD IS THE MASTER PROVIDER.
Notice the words of the women supporting Ruth and Naomi in verse 14: “Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! 15 He 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.” I wonder how much we center on that which we think makes us happy, without noticing what God has done for us instead, to help us realize our many blessings.
One commentator notes: “The fourth chapter brings out the divine purpose behind Ruth’s original decision to follow Naomi and Naomi’s God. Naomi’s bitterness turns to joy, and her grandson is to become the grandfather of King David. In these events the Lord’s hidden providence is revealed.” Boaz and Ruth would bear Obed, who would father Jesse, who would father David, in whose line God promised His Messiah. Obed’s name means “servant.” Obediah means “servant of the Lord.” Jesus, the very Son of God, came “not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.”
All’s well that ends well because Christ has come. This is the season of Advent, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Luke 24:25 is a testimony of how the Old Testament scriptures speak of God and His goodness. Jesus said to the two disciples He met after His resurrection, on the Road to Emmaus: “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”
Shakespeare wrote in 1601: “wrote All’s Well That Ends Well in 1601. The character Helena says in a moment of desperation:
But with the word the time will bring on summer,
When briers shall have leaves as well as thorns,
And be as sweet as sharp. We must away;
Our wagon is prepared, and time revives us:
All’s well that ends well; still the fine’s the crown;
Whate’er the course, the end is the renown.
Although the trickery of Helena and her peers is not something that we can approve of; the statement “All’s well that ends well” can apply to life as we live in submission to God’s sovereignty.
Maybe God has other things in store. Like when Mike Foscolos returned to his destroyed San Bernadino, California home after recent fires, he discovered a reminder of God’s love for him despite the tragic circumstances. Foscolos was evacuated Saturday, October 25th when fires burned dangerously close to his home. He returned that evening to find a pile of smoldering black ash where his home had been. As he surveyed the scene with his flashlight, Foscoloso saw a piece of paper fluttering through the air. He stepped on the paper with his foot to hold it down, and realized it was a singed page from his Bible.
Foscolos said, “It was the first Bible I received as a new Christian and I had saved it in the garage.” The surviving page contained a message of hope from Jeremiah 29:11-13. The passage reads, “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord,’ plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart.”
Foscolos plans to have the page framed to keep in his rebuilt home as a testimony. Foscolos said, “To me, it means God is in control and His promises are true. It’s a reminder that God has a purpose for everything. We may not know why something happens but it’s not our place to ask Him.”