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    Aug 03, 2014

    Class 10: Ruth & Samuel

    Series: Old Testament Overview

    Category: Core Seminars, Bible Prophecy, Grace and Mercy, Nature of God, The Holiness of God, The Wrath of God, Covenants, Indwelling Sin, Nature of Sin




    This morning we come to the books of Ruth and 1 & 2 Samuel.  Here, we’ll see a crucial turning point in the history of redemption: the rise (and sadly the fall) of the great King David.  If there is any Old Testament figure who can rival Abraham in the way God uses him to reveal His plan for redemptive history, it is King David.  These three books center on David.  Just as God’s promises to Abraham set the context for everything we’ve read so far, God’s promises to David will now set the context for the rest of the Old Testament.




    So let’s start by remembering together the significance of David in the rest of the Bible.  Beyond the book of 1 Samuel, how do the rest of the books of the Bible refer back to David?  [Psalms, “for the sake of my servant David” in Kings, Jesus the “Son of David,” “behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered” in Revelation, etc.]






    Let’s start with the book of Ruth, which is the historical and theological prelude to King David.  In terms of context, the author of this book is unknown. It was most likely written during David’s reign.  But look at 1:1 -- the actual events of the story take place, “In the days when judges ruled.”  This is most likely in the early part of the 11th century BC. As we discussed last week, this 350-year period of the judges was a time of great turmoil and disorder.  The book of Ruth, then, acts as hinge point in God’s redemptive plan.  The Lord is preparing his people to transition away from the chaos of their self-centered rule.  And to the good rule of King David, who is foreshadowing the true King—Jesus Christ.


    The question at the heart of this book—for the characters in the story and for modern readers—is does God still care? Does He still care for Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, in light of the loss of her husband and sons? Does He still care for Israel in the middle of three centuries of rebellion? The clear answer in Ruth is that God is our “kinsman-redeemer” who perfectly cares for us in the midst of our trials.  You can see a summary of this in the theme statement on your handout: 


    God sovereignly orchestrates all things—even trials—for the good of His people, who He will one day redeem through the perfect rule of the kinsman king. (repeat slowly)


    The book of Ruth is about Naomi, an Israelite woman in Moab, whose husband and sons have died.  That leaves her and her daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, alone in a foreign land and unable to provide for themselves.  The rest of the book of Ruth is essentially about two days in Ruth’s life: the day she’s fed and the day she’s wed.  The day she’s fed, chapter 2, is when she finds favor with a man named Boaz who provides food for her and Naomi.  And the day she’s wed, chapters 3-4, is when Boaz marries her to maintain her family line.  For our overview of Ruth, we’ll look at three main texts in the book, which provide snapshots into the story.  You’ll see an outline of the full book on the back of your handout.  First,


    1) The Bitterness of Sin: 1:11-12, 20


    In verses 11-12 and 20 we hear Naomi plead with her daughters-in-law to leave her so that they might avoid what she understands to be a hopeless fate. It is in these pleas that we hear all of Israel’s despair.  Look at 1:11-12: [Read Passage]


    But Naomi said, But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? [Skip Down to vs. 13]


    “No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.”


    And as she enters Bethlehem in verse 20: “Do not call me Naomi [which means pleasant]; call me Mara [which means bitter], for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.”


    And with that statement, unknowingly, Naomi is picking a quarrel with God.  Is he a cruel God as she suggests?  Does he make our lives bitter?  Well, in one sense, Naomi and her people deserved the bitterness of life—and worse.  The famine she was fleeing from was God’s judgment for their sin.  And even her act of fleeing was sin.  Her husband was seeking to escape God’s judgment by disobeying the Covenant and leaving the Promised Land.


    But is God all justice and no mercy?  Well, as we read through this book, we see God respond to Naomi’s challenge as he overwhelms her with his mercy.  And that begins right here in Chapter 1.  Orpah leaves as Naomi suggests, but Ruth stays with her mother-in-law.  Her promise to Naomi is beautiful and poetic.  “Do not urge me to leave you or to return 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 will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”


    That leads us to Snapshot #2,


    2) The Kindness of Kinsman Redemption: 4:9-12


    The key to understanding the redemption God will bring Ruth and Naomi is the notion of what’s called the “kinsman-redeemer.” As detailed in Leviticus 25, the kinsman-redeemer was originally set up to allow families to buy back, or “redeem,” their relatives from slavery or debt-bondage. Over the years, this role took on the additional responsibility of marrying the childless widow of a male family member and having children with her so that his family line could continue. This responsibility of the kinsman-redeemer wasn’t obligatory, but it was still highly valued in Jewish culture at this time. As we see in Ruth 4:9-10, a man name Boaz is this kinsman-redeemer, and he redeems Naomi’s family by marrying Ruth.


    So the provision of Ruth is God’s first display of mercy in response to Naomi’s charge.  This marriage is the second, as a redeemer steps in to provide for these two widows.  And the result is snapshot #3:  we see


    3) The Wisdom of God’s Good Plan: 4:13-17

    By God’s grace, this redemption was not only a blessing to Ruth and Naomi – it blessed the whole nation in a way that on their dying day they could never have imagined!  Look at verses 13 through 17 [Read]:


    So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son.   Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel!  He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.”  Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse.  And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.


    Amazingly, Ruth is the great-grandmother of  David, Israel’s greatest earthly King. Even more, David would be an ancestor and a preview of the greater King to come: Jesus Christ.


    Through the entire book of Ruth, we not only see that God DOES care for his people, but that he does so in ways that far exceed our own knowledge. Naomi and many other characters in this story consider their dire circumstances and conclude that God is far off and unconcerned—perhaps even the source of their suffering. Nothing could be further from the truth. What is actually happening is that God is sovereignly directing human events.  He is meeting the specific needs of Naomi and Ruth.  But in addition he’s preparing the way for the coming king who will rescue Israel from the tumultuous time of the judges (David).  And even beyond that, he’s working toward the future redeemer-King who rescues God’s people from their sin.


    We can remember this when we are tempted to despair in the midst of trials and tribulations. Take comfort in knowing that, “…for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Then you’ll be able to echo Naomi’s praise of Boaz in 2:20 with words to God: His “kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead.”




    1st and 2nd SAMUEL


    Background and Context


    Now for 1st and 2nd Samuel—inside of your handout.  This is the transition to a king.  The books are named for the prophet Samuel, the main hinge between the time of the judges and the monarchy.  He was both Israel’s final judge and the one who anointed the nation’s first king. Originally compiled as a single text, we don’t know who wrote these two books. 1st Chronicles 29:29-30 suggests the prophet left written records.  But the account of Samuel’s death in I Samuel 25 suggests that at least much of the book was written by someone else.


    As you read through these books on your own, here’s the central theme to keep in mind: God rules His people through the king who is a representative of the people and whose actions will bring God’s blessing or punishment. 


    Samuel continues the answer to the question of Ruth: Does God still care?  These books demonstrate God’s great compassion for his people.  He gives them a king who is to be their example, defender, and representative. Saul (and many who follow) may fail in these duties, but God is still proven faithful by establishing the line of David.  Which ultimately culminates in the rule of Jesus Christ, who perfectly reigns over all creation.


    Historical Overview


    Let’s turn now to a historical overview, which you can follow on the outline on the back of your handout.  The books of Samuel fall into five historical sections. The first is the story of the prophet himself in 1 Sam. 1-7. Here we read the story of his miraculous birth and subsequent calling and service as God’s prophet. Chapters 8-15 are the transition to monarchy where Samuel anoints Saul as King over Israel. God twice rejects Saul as King due to his disobedience—in chapters 13 and 14.  Then the story shifts to the back-and-forth between the newly anointed King David and Saul, as Saul stubbornly seeks to hold on to power.  That’s chapters 16-31. Moving into 2 Samuel, the life of David—both the good and bad—takes center stage. The first 20 chapters of 2nd Samuel catalogue the death of Saul, the establishment of Jerusalem as the capital, God’s covenant with David, several battles, and the rebellions of Absalom—David’s son—and Sheba, a Benjaminite.  Finally, in chapters 21-24 we have a series of events that draw the narrative to a close.  These include the death of Saul’s sons, multiple wars with the Philistines, David’s last words, and his sin of taking a national census.


    Beyond the history of 1st and 2nd Samuel, though, are some significant theological themes that we need to grasp if we’re to understand the deepest purpose of Samuel’s books. What this narrative teaches us about God—not Samuel, not Saul, and not even David—is the main point of this text. 


    That’s significant, because when we read 1st and 2nd Samuel as just a collection of inspirational historical stories, we miss the point. For example, consider the account of David and Goliath in 1 Sam. 17. How many times have preachers and teachers used this story as some sort of promise that God will deliver us from the “giants in your life?” What you need to do, they often argue, is take the “stone of faith,” and “the stone of prayer,” and “the stone of Bible memorization” and conquer that GIANT in your life!  Well, that’s not what the story’s about at all.  And many of those promises just aren’t true.  They’re not God’s promises.  Instead, this story is full of theological meaning.  It’s about how the king that God chooses is the king who prevails – because in the context, God’s favor has left Saul and is now resting on David.  It’s about how Israel’s God is truly great, because Goliath expresses his disrespect for Yahweh – and that’s why God defeats him.  And this story is a significant chapter in the whole Bible’s story about the Savior that is to come.  Because unlike the judges who cared only for themselves, David is a savior who acts because of his jealousy for the fame of God’s name!  God is telling us that the Christ, like David, will save his people out of a commitment to God’s glory.  If we ignore themes like this and try to apply these books to our lives without putting them in the context of redemption history, we’ll miss the point.  And we may read into them promises that God never made.   So, we’ll spend the rest of our class considering two broad theological themes: kingship and rest.




    I. Kingship


                First, kingship.  Though God is the true king of Israel, the central drama in 1st and 2nd Samuel is the people demanding a king like the other nations around them.  Listen to what the people tell Samuel in 1 Samuel 8:19-20:


    “No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations”


    Samuel, Israel’s leader, is angry.  He doesn’t want God to grant this request.  But God tells him to give them what they want.  “For they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them,” he says in 8:7.  God called this people out from the nations as a light to the world.  But they want to be just “like all the nations.”  How often do we trade our esteemed place as God’s people for the lowly trappings of the world?  Before we rush to judge Israel here in 1st Samuel, it is good to consider our own treasonous tendency to reject God as our King.


    This terrible trade of God’s rule for the rule of man is typical of a pattern that we see throughout the books of Samuel.  The people put their hope in an earthly leader... and that leader forsakes God’s ways and leads them into sin.


    To emphasize the harsh reality that a human leader could never be the people’s ultimate hope, a pattern emerges throughout the books of Samuel.  As one leader declines, God raises up another to take his place, who in turn soon declines.  It’s an “X” pattern, a historical/theological intersection.  Of course, cycle after cycle, the leaders—even kings—never provide the perfect rule that the people need.  This pattern begins with Eli the priest and will continue through David.  Eli’s judgment and decline is recorded in the opening chapters of the book, and 3:19-20 gives us the rise of Samuel:


    “And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.  And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord.”


    But then Samuel raises sons who are corrupt.  And so Saul becomes king.  Decline and rise.  Eli transitions to Samuel, who transitions to Saul, who transitions to David.  Which begs the question, is kingship gonna work?  Well, the answer is “no.”  At least not the way the people of Israel thought it would.  The people of Israel thought the establishment of an earthly king would bring them the comfort and safety they sought, but it did not.  The kings keep declining.  Even David sins and falls short.


    And so, to further emphasize Israel’s need for a perfectly righteous king, God begins to deal with the people based on the faithfulness or faithlessness of their king.  The king functions as a representative of the nation, especially when it comes to the covenant blessings and curses that God promised in Deuteronomy[1].   If the king is faithful, the people are blessed with prosperity and peace.  If he sins and breaks faith with God, the people are cursed with famine and exile, just like God foretold through Moses.  For example, listen to 2 Sam. 21:1: “Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year. And David sought the face of the Lord. And the Lord said, ‘There is bloodguilt on Saul and on his house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.’”  One king’s disobedience affects the whole nation.


    but, far from being outside of the Lord’s plan, these developments point to a future hope when God’s people will be led by a perfect king. Israel’s monarchy was rooted in sinful desires and a lack of faith.  But God used this to underscore man’s utter inability to provide for his own good.  Which is the first piece of the gospel!  These kings point us to Christ in two ways.  The ways that they fail highlight the need for someone better.  But the tremendous good that they do—especially David—is a picture of what a perfect King will be like.  Why does the New Testament reference David more than any other Old Testament figure?  Why does Revelation 22:16 remind us that Jesus is “The Root and Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star?”  Because no one prefigures the perfect kingship of Jesus like David did.  1st and 2nd Samuel don’t just chronicle Israel’s early monarchy.  They point to the ultimate monarch, Christ himself.




    II. REST


    Let’s turn to our second theological theme: rest, on the next page of your handout.


    Though Israel has inhabited the Promised Land for quite some time at this point, that time of the Judges can hardly be called restful.  Well, with the establishment of David’s kingdom, Israel finally begins to enjoy some of this promised rest.


    In 2 Samuel 5, David finally takes his rightful rule over all of Israel, and establishes Jerusalem as the capital.  Then in chapter 6, the Ark of the Covenant is brought to Jerusalem.  The Ark of the Covenant was a chest that was kept in the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle—the mobile place of worship while Israel “wandered” outside of the Promised Land.  It was the throne of God on earth.  So in chapter 6 we see God’s throne and David’s throne occupying the same city, Jerusalem.  This is big.  After generations of wandering without a land and without a resting place, God is finally giving Israel a sense of permanence and is even causing his presence to rest with them.


    It’s in this context that the narrative of Samuel crescendos as God makes a glorious covenant with David in 2 Sam. 7.  Let’s start by reading verses 1-3:


    Now when the king lived in his house and the Lord had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies,the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.”  And Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.”


    Notice in verse 1 that David and the people have “rest,” and now David wants to build a “house” for Yahweh.  That is, he wants to build a permanent temple for worship.  But Yahweh sends his prophet back to David to deliver the message to him that it’s not time to build a temple.  Far from being angry at David, however, the Lord blesses him. Look at verse 10:


    “I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more.”


    Up to this point, God is simply restating his promises to Abraham. But then he promises something far greater.  Let’s keep reading where we left off.


    Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house.  When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”



    Here Yahweh plays with the word “house.”  The Hebrew word can be used in two ways, just like the English one.  David wanted to build God a house, as in a place to live.  But God says that he will build David a house—as in, a “dynasty.”  That line of descendants that we’ve been following from Adam, through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, now passes through David, and will pass through his sons on the throne in Jerusalem.  You can see why it’s an exciting moment in redemptive-history.  It’s not just the dynasty that’s in view.  That word “offspring” in verse 12 is singular, and so verse 13 is saying that in that dynasty there is one king whose kingdom will endure forever! 

    Now, verse 13 also says that this promised king will build a house for God’s name.  How should we understand what’s going on here?  Well, now may be a good time to talk about what we call “near and far fulfillment” of prophecy.  Whenever a prophet would make a prediction about the distant future, there was often a “near,” incomplete fulfillment of that prophecy.  But then a longer-term, more complete fulfillment.


    So, long-term, one of David’s descendants will reign forever and ever.  His “house” will never end.  But, short-term, David’s immediate son will build a house, meaning the physical temple that David wanted to build.  This “near” prophecy comes to pass in Solomon, David’s first son to reign after him.  No, his kingdom doesn’t last forever.  But this near fulfillment points forward to David’s greater son—Jesus.  Hebrews 3:6 helps us here.  “Christ is faithful over God's house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.”


    All of this demonstrates God’s plan to provide perfect rest for his people.  The establishment of David’s throne and of Jerusalem as the city of God finally allows Israel to end their displaced existence and to construct a settled life. The promise that one of David’s sons will build a temple for the Lord further underscores this notion of rest.  It gives a sense of permanence as the mobile tabernacle is traded for a glorious, fixed place of worship. Most importantly, Yahweh’s covenant with David secures that his “house” of peace and justice will be established forever through the Messiah to come. This rest, the rest that comes from Christ, is our hope too!


    Think about how great our rest in Jesus is.  In Hebrews 1:3 we read, “[Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, …” When Jesus completes his work and fulfills the promises of God, he sits down beside the father in the rest of victory.  The battle against sin, death, and Satan is over.  This is the king who reigns forever. This is the son of David whose rule will never end. And it is this true rest.  It is the rest of the one who has completed his mission to save God’s people.  And it’s the rest we can enter into in part now, though faith in Christ.  And fully one day when this world passes away and we enter that final Promised Land of Grace! 


    [Take Questions]




    Ruth and 1st and 2nd Samuel are an exciting chapter of the Old Testament.  But, like everything else in the Old Testament, they leave us longing for more.  All Israel must be wondering, when will this eternal kingdom come? What will this eternal King be like?  That leads to the rest of the Old Testament.  But thinking just about what we’ve seen today, we should leave here secure secure in the knowledge that God cares for his people.  He’s given us a King who will faithfully care for us so that our ultimate rest can be found in God.     




    [1] See Deut. 27-28.