Preaching Ruth

Ok, this is a kind of ‘post-match reaction’ contribution to this blog. I have just completed preaching my series on Ruth. I ‘m not sure it has been all that useful. (This may be the ‘preacher’s blues’ speaking.)

I studied Ruth last semester in Hebrew. This has been a great blessing to me personally. However, one problem with preparing to preach on it is that I have generated a great deal of material which could be made use of. I took the step of preaching an overview followed by a sermon on each chapter – 5 sermons in all. However, it may be that with a whole chapter to preach on and having a lot of material under my belt, the sermons have been longer than usual – 40mins rather than 30.

As I mentioned yesterday, preaching a series in the OT is still new for me and to be honest I’m still not sure how to do it. I want to beware of two things: the first is simply moralising – “here is an example of good behaviour. Go thou and do likewise!” or “here’s bad behaviour. Avoid this!”. In Ruth, Boaz’ life is an example of the former, but Elimelech’s faithlessness is an example to be avoided.

The second thing to beware of is cheap allegorising. That is, make a link such as, Boaz is like Christ, Ruth is like the church. Therefore, the story is really about Jesus redeeming the church. Before you know it you are actually preaching on Ephesians 1 when you should be expounding Ruth.

But what does that leave me? I wanted to show Ruth’s place in the greater plan of redemption in history. So, in Ruth we find God acting providentially. We find that God’s law provides the legal framework for the concept of a redeemer to arise (the idea of a goel – a kinsman-redeemer, combined with levirate marriage). And, of course, in the examples of Ruth and Boaz we find God’s character formed in them as they display chesed – faithfulness/lovingkindness – in various ways. All of this combining to provide the offspring which would lead ultimately to Christ in due time. So Christ is in view, but we also do not lose sight of the real events in history and what they reveal.

However, having said all that, I am not sure it worked too well. I got bogged down in too much detail and the main themes may have been obscured. The length of the sermons were excessive, and probably the stucture was not clear enough to heIp people concentrate. Much still to be learned. Keeps one humble.

Preaching Ruth

4 thoughts on “Preaching Ruth

  1. Dan B. says:

    I can imagine that at times preaching in the Old Testament can be difficult, but as long as your heart was dedicated to showing God’s glory through your preaching, He has used it for His purposes. I would not worry about length, per se–I would not have thought I could listen to one hour and hour and a half sermons, but the former happens at our church almost weekly, and I don’t even notice it.

  2. Stephen says:

    Thanks for the encouragement. I always have the advice of my mentor in my mind when thinking about preaching: better to leave them wanting more than wishing they had had less! Also, given Philip Ryken’s comments on Ref 21 I am wary of preaching too long. You must thank God you have a preacher who can engage you for a full hour!

  3. rev-ed says:

    Ruth is one of those books which breaks down easily by chapter, but sometimes it’s easier to ignore the chapter breaks and select specific texts where you don’t have to allegorize or moralize. I have the tendency to try to bite off too much at a time, probably because I want to show the context of each passage.

    I’m not sure I’ve ever felt that I’ve covered a passage adequately except when I’ve talked for an hour and people are slowly nodding off… 😉

  4. Dan B. says:

    I did go and read the comments by Ryken, and I can see his point. For me, I guess it does depend on the preacher; but at the same time, I guess it’s a reaction to the more modern idea of things (at least here in consumerism America) that the entire service better not go past one hour, or the congregation will get upset, especially if the sermon went over 25 minutes! (sarcasm)

    In all seriousness, I definitely agree that pastors work towards preaching with more confidence (and as a result, get longer)–but it is only important if the content is biblical and has quality. I’d rather listen to a great but concise sermon based on good exegetical exposition rather than endless blathering that does nothing to truly further the Gospel.

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