I’m starting a short series of sermons from the book of Ruth this Sunday. It is always a revelation to examine a familiar passage of Scripture again for the first time. What appears on the surface to be a sweet, moralizing, happy-ending story turns out to be a direct encounter with the Living God. May He never stop speaking to His people through Scripture.

I’m toying with what to title the sermon series. In 2007, Mark Driscoll preached a similar series and called it, Redeeming Ruth. I haven’t listened to all of his messages from the series but I understand where he got his title.

“Redemption” is the key concern in the story told. In its short eighty-five verses, the words “redeem” and its derivatives (“redeemer,” “redemption”) are used twenty-three times.

            The challenge is knowing who is redeemed. With whom am I to identify in the story?

            Most interpreters and every sermon I have ever heard or preached hold up Ruth as the model to follow. She is, as the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, an admirable character from an ethnic group despised and rejected by the “people of God” who trusted God and was rewarded for her faith. “Ruth believed, trusted, obeyed and was redeemed; therefore, go and do likewise.” Let’s stand and sing.

            That is a fine way to approach the book of Ruth. Indeed, that is the way many interpreters approach it and many preachers preach it, myself included. But, I think there is a deeper level of meaning here.

            I still have a lot of work to do—and a lot of praying to do—before I feel confident that I have heard the full word of God here, but here is my preliminary conclusion: the story is not about the redemption of Ruth. She maintains her integrity throughout the story. The story is about the redemption of Naomi. She is the one who turned bitter against God when He did not act as she thought He ought to act (see 1:19-21 for insight into her disillusionment with the goodness of God). And, surprisingly, she is the one—Naomi—who is said to have “received a son” at the end of the story (4:17).

            So, another deceptively charming little story from the Bible that carries a supernatural punch. I’ll have more to share as the series develops.