The Lord raised up judges, who delivered them out of the hand of those who spoiled them’ Judges 2:16
“Choose you this day whom ye will serve … As for me and my family, we will serve the LORD!” (Joshua 24:15)
In the last half of our lesson, we plan to look at a touching “love story” recorded in the Holy Scriptures! In our last lesson we saw how Joshua, the servant of Moses, led the Israelites into Canaan. We read how God went before Joshua and the Israelites to expel their enemies and bring them into the rich land of Canaan, just as He had promised their ancestor Abraham long beforehand. Today we plan to look at the two holy books which follow the book of Joshua. They are the books of
Judges and Ruth.
These two books show us what happened between the time of the prophet Joshua and the time of the prophet David.
Before we get into the book of Judges, we should read the message Joshua entrusted to the Israelites before he died. In the last chapter of the book of Joshua, Joshua met with all the leaders of the Israelites to warn them and encourage them to love and obey the LORD their God who had freed them from Egypt and given them the beautiful land in which they were now living. In His last speech to them, Joshua said to them,
“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord,
choose you this day whom ye will serve,
whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the river, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell; but as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.” Then the multitude of the Israelites answered Joshua saying,
“Therefore will we also serve the Lord; for he is our God!” (Josh. 24:15,18)
Now let’s look at what really happened. The Scripture says: (Judges 2:7-13) “And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord, that he did for Israel. And Joshua, the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being an hundred and ten years old. And they buried him … in the hill country of Ephraim. And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, who knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim. And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people who were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger. And
they forsook the Lord,
and served Baal and Ashtaroth”. Thus, the Israelites forgot the LORD their God, turned their back on Him, and began to follow the religions of the nations around them. However, those nations did not know the true God and did not have His Word.
Baal was an idol which the people of Canaan claimed was God. They made for themselves images which were representations of Baal and worshiped them. The nations who gave praise to Baal thought they were worshipping God. But in reality, they were worshipping their own desires and Satan; however they did not know it because Satan had deceived them. Satan also deceived many Israelites, which was why they turned from the LORD God and began to worship Baal
as the nations around them did.
Thus we see how most of the Israelites turned their back on the way which God had established, which was the way of the Law of Moses and the animal sacrifice on the altar to cover sin. Instead of following God’s way of righteousness, they followed a false way, that is, the way of the religion of Baal. The first commandment of the Ten Commandments which God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, says: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me … for
I, the LORD thy God, am a jealous God,
visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:3,5,6) But most of the Israelites did not honour the LORD God, which is why God punished them.
Idol Worship: Judges
Continuing in the book of Judges, the Scripture says: (Judg. 2:11,14-15) “And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim … And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers who spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies. Wherever they went out, the hand of the Lord was against them for evil, as the Lord had said, and as the Lord had sworn unto them; and they were greatly distressed”.
Thus, the book of Judges tells us how the Israelites hardened their hearts and turned from the LORD, again and again. That is why God handed them over to their enemies time after time,
to punish them,
so that they would acknowledge their sin and repent and be saved from destruction. Every time the Israelites truly repented, God raised up for them judges
to save them from their enemies.
We would like to tell you about such heroes as Gideon who defeated a huge, powerful army with just three hundred men, or about Samson who single-handedly overcame a thousand men, but time does not allow us to do so. Perhaps you will read their fascinating stories for yourselves in the book of Judges.
In summary, the book of Judges shows us that each time the Israelites strayed from God and His Word, the LORD would punish them so that they would turn from their sin and return to Him. When they repented, God would provide for them a leader to rescue them from their enemies. That is the story of the book of Judges in brief.
Yes, the Israelites transgressed against God again and again. But
could their unfaithfulness hinder God’s faithfulness?
Never! Truly, God punished every individual who sinned, but He preserved the nation of Israel as a whole, because God could not forget what He had promised Abraham long beforehand when He said, “All nations of the earth shall be blessed in him.” God planned to make of Abraham’s descendants a nation which would bring to the earth
the Savior of the world.
Nothing could hinder God’s wonderful design: not the sin of the Israelites, not Pharaoh, not the people of Egypt, not the people of Canaan, not a false religion like that of Baal,
not even Satan himself.
Nothing could hinder God’s plan to send down the Savior of the world through the nation of Israel!
Now, we must look at the short book that follows the book of Judges:
the book of Ruth.
The story of this book is a marvellous story. It is like a lovely flower growing among the weeds in a neglected garden, because it tells the story of a woman who loved God among people who were crooked and bad.
We cannot read the whole book of Ruth, but we can summarise it. What you must first know is that
Ruth was a widow
and that she did not belong to the nation of Israel. She belonged to the people of Moab and lived in the land of Moab, which was situated south of the land of Israel. Also, you should know that
the people of Moab were idolaters
and despised both the God of Israel and the Israelites.
Ruth belonged to the nation of Moab, but this did not cause her to despise the God of Israel. No, in fact,
Ruth believed in the God of Israel with all her heart!
Ruth had heard how the LORD God had performed great miracles in delivering the multitude of Israel from the hands of the Egyptians. Also, Ruth had heard the reliable words which the prophet Moses had written in his books concerning the way of salvation which God had established. Ruth believed in the LORD with all her heart, and accepted the message that He sent to the Israelites.
So then, what we must observe concerning Ruth is this: she lived in Moab among idolaters. Ruth’s parents were idolaters. And Ruth was born into their religion. But now
Ruth no longer believed the religion of her father.
The God of Israel was the One in whom Ruth believed. Thus we see that Ruth had a choice to make and
it was not easy!
Should Ruth remain in her father’s house, continue in her father’s religion and marry a man who did not know the God of Israel? Or should she turn her back on her father’s house and religion and move to Israel? That is the difficult choice that Ruth had to make! Before we find out which path Ruth chose, you should also know that Ruth had a sister-in-law named Orpah. Like Ruth, Orpah also knew much about the God of Israel. Thus, Ruth’s sister-in-law also had to choose between continuing in the religion of her father or following the LORD God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Which path did Ruth and Orpah choose?
Orpah chose the easier path, that is, to remain in her father’s house and marry a man who shared her father’s religion. But Ruth chose the difficult path, that is, to leave her father’s house and move to the land of Israel. Ruth knew that no one can worship two gods. One could not mix worshipping the God of Israel and worshipping the idols of Moab. That is why Ruth turned her back on her father’s religion. Ruth decided,
it is better to obey God than to obey man.
Ruth was willing to be misunderstood by her family and friends in order to follow the true and living God. As the proverb say, “Whoever wants honey must not be afraid of the bees.” In other words, Whoever follows God’s way of righteousness must be prepared to be misunderstood by family and friends. Thus Ruth left her father’s house, and moved to the land of Israel, to a small town called Bethlehem.
Now a man lived in Bethlehem whose name was Boaz.
Boaz was the son of Rahab,
the woman who escaped from the disaster which fell on the city of Jericho (as we saw in our last lesson). Boaz was a righteous man, and greatly treasured the Word of God. Boaz also had riches and many fields of grain, but
he did not yet have a wife.
The Scriptures recount how Ruth, who now lived in the city of Bethlehem, had the habit of leaving early in the morning every day to go to the fields to gather the barley which the harvesters had dropped. Ruth was a poor peasant and according to the law which God gave Moses for the Israelites, the poor were allowed to reap in this way, so that they might not go hungry. Thus the Scriptures tell us how God led Ruth to go and reap in the field of Boaz,
the son of Rahab.
Boaz noticed Ruth reaping in his field and spoke with her. Boaz quickly recognized the beauty of Ruth’s character. Boaz was a righteous man and saw that Ruth was a decent woman. Can you guess what happened? It isn’t too hard to figure out! Yes, Boaz and Ruth fell in love with each other and eventually got married. Ruth put God and His Word first in her life and
God blessed her for it.
Thus, the Scripture says: Boaz and Ruth had a son named Obed. Obed became the father of Jesse, and Jesse became the father of the prophet David who became the great king of the nation of Israel, and the prophet who wrote many of the Psalms. And from David’s offspring the Redeemer arose, that is, the Savior of the world, of whom all the prophets prophesied.
Thus we see in this lesson how God worked in the life of Ruth, a woman who was not of the nation of Israel.
the Israelites turned their backs on the LORD their God
to follow the religions of the surrounding nations,
Ruth turned her back on the religion of her father
to follow the God of Israel! Thus, God led Ruth to live in Bethlehem in Israel, to marry Boaz, and to become the great-grandmother of David, king of Israel. In all of this, we can see how
God was moving forward with His plan
to bring the Redeemer into the world, because it was from the descendants of David and in the city of Bethlehem that the Savior of the world was to be born.
This is where we must stop. Next lesson, God willing, we will study the book that relates the life of the prophet David who was born in Bethlehem and descended from Ruth and Boaz. We finish with a question:
Who are you most like?
Are you more like Orpah, Ruth’s sister-in-law, who chose the easy path? Or are you like courageous Ruth, who turned her back on her father’s religion to follow the One true God?
God bless you as you remember what the prophet Joshua told the Israelites before he died:
“Choose you this day whom ye will serve . . . As for me and my family, we will serve the LORD!” (Josh. 24:15)
We would invite you to answer the questions attached.