I am currently preparing my sermon on Ruth 3 (check CavSermons to the right). It has been some time since I’ve tried to handle a whole chapter of an historical book in a week. Whew! I don’t have an hour like Big Name Preachers (nor the gifting necessary to pull an hour off). So it has been interesting. What have I been using?
Esther & Ruth by Iain Duguid from the Reformed Expository Commentary Series. He is a prof at Westminster West. I’ve enjoyed his books from the Gospel in the Old Testament series (also published by P&R). Note this is expository, not exegetical. These are his sermons on the texts, so there is focus on application beyond the meaning of the text. There are footnotes interacting with some of the language issues (and there are plenty in Ruth).
This book is solid, and accessible to pastors and lay people alike. He has a great way of putting things that gets to the heart of the issue. And, it also covers Esther as a bonus. This is the first book in this series I’ve purchased, and I’ll probably buy more.
The standard exegetical commentary would be The Book of Ruth by Hubbard in the NICOT series. There is lots of ambiguous Hebrew in Ruth, so a mere 4 chapters required 280+ pages. It was very helpful, though difficult to get through all the material each week (average of 50 pages/week of dense reading after the introductory material). If I’d gone slower through the book, I wouldn’t have felt so overwhelmed. You live; you learn.
I wanted to pick up The Message of Ruth in the Bible Speaks Today series (one of my favorite commentary series), but the RTS Orlando bookstore didn’t have it in stock. I didn’t have the time to go on line and have it shipped to me. But since Hubbard was so exhaustive, I may not have had the time/energy to work through that one too.
[I have since purchased and read Sinclair Ferguson’s short book, Faithful God, which is a short commentary on Ruth. It is fantastic. I’ve also purchased Dean Ulrich’s From Famine to Feast in the Gospel in the Old Testament series, but I’ve yet to read it.]
Providentially, Mark Driscoll just preached through the same book in his Redeeming Ruth series (check links on the right). He took 6 weeks. So I was able to let people know, “Hey, could be worse… Driscoll took 2 hours to cover this material.” Overall, the sermons were good. At points I found myself disagreeing strongly with Mark. In one of my posts on The Crook in the Lot, I mention some issues regarding his expression of providence.In the sermon covering chapter 3, he makes some unfair leaps regarding Boaz’ willingness to redeem Ruth.The Levarite Marriage law did apply to Boaz. In the OT, ‘brother’ can also be used to refer to those from the same tribe or nation. It is not limited to one’s immediate family. Boaz was one of the redeemers in the tribe. He, like the other man, could refuse to exercise his ‘rights’. Such an action would be frowned upon, but not the end of the universe.
Driscoll seems to want to protect the gratuitous nature of Boaz’ choice. He wants to protect us from thinking that Boaz merely “had to” marry Ruth. But the text is clear that he wanted to- and how! Jesus “had to” die for our sins when viewed within the Trinity. He submitted to the Father. BUT, He also wanted to die for our sins because He loved His people so much. So, law and love are not necessarily opposed. Just like Jesus, Boaz freely and joyfully fulfilled his duty. Unlike Jesus, Boaz found abundant grace for himself in that act of faith.
Driscoll also preaches to a different congregation than many of us pastor. Since most of the adults there are single, he focused on relational aspects. He used it to instruct his people on how God works in us, through us, and possibly against us, to provide spouses. As a result, parts of his sermons on Ruth may not connect with the married folks.
From a pastoral note: at times Mark seems too concerned that people find his jokes funny. Granted, they often make his final sermon available so he is tired at that point in the day. Too much self-reference not having to do with illustrations. Does that make sense? We all have weaknesses, and if you listen to my sermons you’ll surely find plenty (most everyone else does anyway).
In the back of my head I have the series by John Piper on Ruth’s Bitter Providence. He preached on that at some Ligonier conferences in the mid-late 90’s. I worked one of them (Memphis or Detroit?). If Desiring God Ministries has them… download them! Great stuff. I need to put my tapes on CD.
Update: Fast forward to 2014 as I prepare a Sunday School lesson on Ruth. I have used the above materials. Ulrich’s From Famine to Fullness is very good and helps keep the gospel at the center of this Old Testament book. I never did get the Bible Speaks Today volume, and Mark Driscoll has since crashed and burned. In the last few years he became increasingly hard to defend and that was without knowing all that was going on in Mars Hill. It is a reminder of how dependent we are on the grace of God to love and serve. This makes the character of Ruth and Boaz shine even brighter though they had less of the Scriptures and knew less of the greatness of Jesus. There is hope for us!
Since it is in a different setting, I’ll be using a Power Point presentation to go with it for the first time. I’m exciting about that and found a number of paintings and drawings depicting the events of Ruth. And some other things. I’m slowly moving into the 20th century.