Happily Ever After
September 5, 2010
Alright, let’s do a big, big shout out to all our campuses. I’m talking about how are you guys doing in Dallas? Downtown Dallas, right now, what’s up Dallas? Fort Worth? That’s right, Funkytown, Fort Worth. Plano? And also I’m talking to the hottest church in the coolest town, or maybe the coolest church in the hottest town, MIA-Miami! What’s up? Everybody on your feet at all the campuses.
You know, I’ve been talking about romance and we’ve been saying around here that the Bible is the greatest romance novel ever penned. We love romance. We are enthralled by romance. It’s like we have this romance with romance. We have fallen in love with falling in love. Today it’s going to get hotter than fish grease up in this church! We’re gonna get down and dirty. We’re gonna hear some stuff that’s so deep about romance I’m not sure if we can contain it. It’s that amazing because I’m simply opening up the Holy Bible, God’s word, the Scriptures, and I’m gonna tell you about a love story that is real and that is revolutionary. I’m telling you, the principles are stuff we need to download into our lives. So, I want all of us in all of our environments to read this verse together. It’s gonna be on the screen behind me and also on the side screens. It will be in every one of our different campuses. I’m talking to Pastor Scott Wilson down in Miami, I’m talking to Pastor Chris McGregor in Dallas, I’m talking to Pastor Tracy Barnes in Plano, and I’m talking to the pastor at Funkytown, Chris Prater. So we’re going to read it together. Are you guys ready? I’m talking about reading the book of Ruth.
Ruth 1:16, let’s read it together. One.. two.. three… “But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God, my God.’ ”
Father, give me your words to say to every person here. You brought us here for a reason. You caused this beautiful collision to happen because of your irrational, one-of-a-kind, romantic love. In Jesus’ name. Amen. Please be seated.
You know, that phrase “amen” means “so let it be.” That’s what it means when people say, “amen.”
Now, here’s a question. How many of you were here last weekend? If you were here last weekend, lift your hand. Alright. How many of you were obedient to what we suggested? We said don’t read Ruth 4. How many said, “OK, Ed, I did not read Ruth, chapter 4. You took me to the edge, you took me to the cliff, but you said, ‘Don’t read Ruth, chapter 4.’ ”
How many obeyed? Alright. It’s OK to confess; we’re in church. How many of us read chapter 4 this week? That’s OK. We still love you, God still loves you. You don’t have to worry about that.
We talked about something last week that was really cool. We talked about a little R&B. Rhythm and Blues. It’s a style of music, Rhythm and Blues. We learned that God is a God of rhythm. God has a rhythm for romance. And those of us who are wise run to the rhythm. We run to God’s flow. We run to His plan. We go with God’s grid. If we go against God’s grain we’re gonna pay the freight.
Now, R&B is a style of music, but also R&B is the flavor and feel of this romantic novel I’m gonna share with you today, nestled in the book of Ruth. I’m talking about Ruth and Boaz, R&B. There are three main characters here. As I give you the Wikipedia of the first three chapters of the book of Ruth, stay with me. You’ve got Naomi, you’ve got Ruth, and you’ve got Boaz. Those are the three characters. Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz. The central characters R&B, Ruth and Boaz.
Why, I ask you, are we enthralled and enmeshed by romance? Well, I will tell you. God is a God of the romance. Our romantic feelings, our romantic flow has been given to us by the God of the universe. He is our initiative-taking God. He has wired us to be attracted to the opposite sex, and He wants us to move in romance. But I’m talking about real romance. I’m talking about true love. I’m talking about stuff that many people want but so few people have. I’m talking about R&B.
Naomi had her family. The family lived in Bethlehem. What does the word Bethlehem mean? House of Bread. There was a famine in the land so she and her family, her husband and her two sons, moved to from Bethlehem, from the “House of Bread,” to a place God said not to go. They went to Moab. Uh-oh. Moab. Read ‘ungodliness.’ Read ‘immorality.’ God said in Deuteronomy 23, “Don’t mess around with the Moabites. Don’t get mesmerized in Moab.” Her family just went there. They really went there on a brief stay. They kind of got a working visa. Everything was cool. They thought they would cruise back when the food began to fall again in Bethlehem.
But they were in Moab, and they stayed in Moab, and they really messed up in Moab. They went against God’s grain for their lives. When you go to Moab it will keep you there longer than you want to stay. It will take you further than you want to go, and it will cost you more than you want to pay. Some of the time? Eventually, all of the time.
Now some of you right now are going, “Ed, dude, I’m in Moab! I understand, man. I am in Moab!” Well, while they were in Moab something happened. Naomi’s husband died. Then her two sons married a couple of Moabite women. Her sons died. So you’ve got now Moab being the House of Blues. So they were in the House of Bread, a little bit hungry because of a famine. Now they’re in the House of Blues and they got some food on the table. I would rather be going God’s way on an empty stomach than going against God’s grain in Moab and be full. They were in trouble. They were by themselves, just Naomi and a couple of girls, her daughters-in-law. It was tough.
Back in the day, if you were a woman you didn’t have jack. All the real estate, all the holdings, were all tied up in this weirdness. Only the men had the power. So, here’s what Naomi decided to do. “You know what, I’m getting out of Moab. I’m going back from the House of Blues to the House of Bread.” She was bitter. She was depressed, despondent, downtrodden. She told her two daughters-in-law to remain in Moab. Now check this out. What’s this girl smoking? Why is Naomi telling her daughters-in-law to go deeper into Moab? Deeper into idol worship? Deeper into immorality? I don’t know. One of the girls bolted. She went deep into Moab. The other one, oh man she was hot! She stuck to Naomi like caffeine to a coffee bean. We just read about it. She’s like, “Naomi, where you go, I will go. Your God, my god. Your people. My people.”
So they made their way back from the House of Blues into Bethlehem, the House of Bread. And take a wild guess what time of year it was. Springtime. April. The barley festival, the barley harvest. All the people were working in the fields collecting barley. Well, they didn’t have jack. No money. Naomi was old. She couldn’t get a man. I mean, she was just like worn out. Here was Ruth, young, beautiful, gorgeous. She goes, “Naomi, I’ll tell you what. I’m gonna work behind the workers and when they drop the grain I will collect the grain and that will be just enough to feed us.” So Ruth just arbitrarily picks a field. And here is this girl, Ruth, former beauty queen, at the zenith of her life, picking up excess barley. It was a bad day for her, ladies. Allergies, nose running, barley all over her face, mascara all messed up, baseball cap on. She was at her worst. And guess who showed up? Big-time Boaz. Oh, yeah. Big Bucks Boaz. Billionaire Boaz. Ladies, he was the total package. He was a godly man and he was rich. I know you love security. Come on, ladies, it’s OK. And Boaz was like, “Who is that babe?! Who is that Baby Ruth?” (I’ve got to throw at least one cheesy joke in every time). “Who is that babe, that hottie? Who is that girl who is working in the fields? Man, she is incredible-looking!” Chemistry… wow! “Whoa, who is that girl?” You’ve gotta have chemistry. Students, you’ve gotta have chemistry. Those who are married, you’ve gotta have chemistry. Chemistry is good, it’s a God thing. God has given us chemistry. And our world says it’s all about chemicals. “Just a chemical reaction, that’s what love is, that’s what romance is, just a chemical thing, just a scientific thing. That’s what it is…that’s what it is.” Really? So we’re dogs in heat? We’re spawning salmon? Deer in rut? That’s what we are, OK? Yeah, I’m just an animal, right? Just a bunch of hormones. I’m just genitals. No! It’s more than that. We’re made in the image of God. We’ve got chemicals. God has given us these chemicals.
Now let me stop here. Chemicals are good. You’ve gotta have chemistry. What are the chemicals? They’re tremendous! Testosterone, all the guys, yeah! Estrogen, come on girls, woo-hoooo! Estrogen! King Testosterone, Queen Estrogen, two chemicals. And God says they are tremendous, but they can be treacherous. They can be explosive if we do them our way. And here is where so many people mess up in the dating game. They allow the chemicals to lead. They jump in the rack and in the sack. They start with Organic Chemistry, which is difficult, instead of starting with Biology 101. God says, “Wait when it comes to sex. Wait when it comes to the explosive power of testosterone and estrogen. Wait! You only use those chemicals in the marriage bed.”
“Aw man, but I’m gonna go against God’s law, Ed. I’m the man!”
“I’m the girl! I gotta do what I gotta do.”
Illus: The law of gravity. What if I said I’m gonna defy the law of gravity. I know where there’s a ladder and I can climb up the side of this monstrous building and run across the top of our roof. (You know, we have our logo painted on our roof? Fellowship Church. Why, you ask? Well, we’re right by DFW Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world. When people are flying they’re always thinking about eternity. Even the pilot of a 777. They’re thinking about eternity! I want them to glance down and go, “Aw man, there’s God’s house. I might show up to that church one day.”) Anyway, I could run across the top of the roof and say to myself, “I’m gonna defy gravity,” and jump off. And for a nanosecond I’d be like, “Wow! I am defying the law of gravity! This is awesome!” But… I would have an appointment with the pavement.
You can say, “You know what, I’m gonna use testosterone my way. I’m a red-blooded man.” Or, “I’m gonna use estrogen my way. If that’s what it takes, you have to give it up to get a man. I’m gonna defy God’s law… watch this!” You run across the building and for a little while you’re like, “Wow I’m flying! This is awesome! Sex outside of marriage, this is cool! I’m doing it my way. I’m married but I’m messing around.” Boom… you’ve got an appointment with the pavement. You can’t go against God’s grain.
And what’s so cool about Ruth and Boaz is you’ve got Ruth running to God’s relational rhythm, doing it God’s way. You’ve got Boaz doing it God’s way. And then you have Boaz, and the chemicals are happening, but then he looked past the chemicals.
See, if you get the chemicals exploding outside of marriage you’ll marry the wrong person. I will say that again. If you get the chemicals exploding before marriage you have a great chance of walking down the wedding runner with the wrong person. This is just what God says. We’ve got to trust God. He wrote the owner’s manual, he wrote the romance novel. So God does not say, “No,” when it comes to sex, he says, “Wait until covenant, until marriage.” And that’s what they did. They lived by God’s directive. So they had lunch together. Boaz really liked her.
And notice, Boaz liked the way she worked, her tenacity, her character. So then she collected some food and she comes home to Naomi and says, “Look what I collected in the field.” And Naomi is making small talk and she goes, “Ruth, where did you work?” And Ruth is like, “Well, it was incredible. I was just working in this big old field and I met this billionaire man of God named Boaz.” Naomi was like, “Boaz? This is crazy! He’s one of our relatives!” And then she began to download to Ruth the Levirate law.
Back in the day the Levirate law said that if a husband died and left a childless widow, the next in line, the closest kin, would buy all the holdings. I’m talking about buy the real estate and the land, and marry the girl. Now, most of the time this happened amongst brothers, so think about it. You would have some skin in the game as far as who your brother was dating. “No, don’t date that girl, she’s crazy!” “Date her! Oh I like her a lot. You date her!”
Anyway, Naomi said, “Ruth, you hit the jackpot! A godly man, a billionaire. Wow! Tell him that you want to marry him because you can feel the connection.” And she made herself available to him. He could have taken advantage of her, he could have done all this stuff but he said, “You know what, I’m doing it God’s way. God, I’m gonna trust you.” The Levirate law had something in it called the kinsman redeemer clause. The closest of kin would marry and buy all the real estate holdings of the family. That was the Levirate law, the law of the kinsman redeemer.
So everything looked good and they were just getting ready to get married. You know every time you think about a romance you always have the connection, the chemistry, and then you have the conflict, you’ve got the chase, and then the choice. And then we want to say, “I hope it works out OK.” And then they live happily ever after.
Have you ever wondered why we like happy endings? “And they lived happily ever after.” Especially when it comes to romance… “and they lived happily ever after.” We’re made for a sweet ending. We’re made in the image of God. God wants us to live “happily ever after” in eternity. And some of you are facing a “happily ever after” eternity. Others of you have turned your back on God’s love, gone your own way, and your forever doesn’t look very good. But one of the beautiful things about God’s romance novel is if you read the last page it says, “And we live happily ever after… happily ever after.”
Well, the plot clots because Boaz thinks he’s the man, he’s the kinsman redeemer. He does some research and then he’s like, “Oh man! I’m not the closest! There’s another guy! Ruth, this is terrible. I love you, girl, but there’s somebody else who is closer!”
Now again, Boaz had some serious coin. He could have gotten around the law, he could have defied God’s law, but he knew better. He trusted God. I don’t understand everything there is about God. I never will until I get to “happily ever after,” but sometimes we’ve got to just trust. “God, your ways are higher than my ways.” I cannot wrap my little pea-brain around the sovereignty of God.
So, here’s what Boaz does. He says, “Ruth, I’m gonna get my big Boaz in gear and I’m gonna run to the supreme court of the land and I’m gonna make sure this thing works out. I’m gonna try my best, girl, to make you my wife.” So big Boaz runs to the city gates, that’s where all the business took place. He sits down and begins to talk to them because he wants to be the kinsman redeemer but he’s not, there’s somebody else closer.
And to show you the beauty of God, while he’s sitting at the city gates, who walks by? The guy who’s closest to Ruth. And Boaz goes, “What’s up, my brother from another mother! Come here and let’s talk.” So he begins to talk to the guy, he explains the deal to the guy. We don’t know this guy’s name, we have no idea who this guy is, but he goes, “I can’t afford that! I can’t pay that money for that land! I can’t marry that girl! This would endanger my inheritance! I would be up to my eyeballs!” So then this dude, this nameless dude, takes off his shoe (that’s what they did back in the day), he takes off his sandal and gives it to Boaz, signifying, “Boaz, the land is yours. Take the turf. Buy the real estate. Marry Ruth!” Is this hot? (wedding march humming).
Ruth and Boaz, having pledged your faith in marriage by the giving and receiving of these rings, acting by the authority of the nation of Israel, I now pronounce you husband and wife in the presence of God and these assembled witnesses. What God has joined together, let no man separate.
Do you want to go par-tay!? Probably playing K.C. and the Sunshine Band back then, I don’t know. But it was great! It was amazing! And then, (singing) “Having my baby…” She got pregnant! She had a baby. “Let’s name him Obed… let’s name him O-bed!” And Obed became famous because he was the father of Jesse, and Jesse is in the lineage of David, in the lineage of Jesus. And everybody in the town was like, “You guys can make Bethlehem famous! You guys can put the House of Bread on the map!” Who was born in Bethlehem? Who? Jesus. Wow. This is pretty deep. So Boaz was the kinsman redeemer.
The word redeem, or cost, or buy, is used 15 times in Ruth, chapter 4. What does it mean? What’s the definition of redemption? To redeem? It means to set free by paying a price. Say it with me… to set free by paying a price. Say it like you mean it… to set free by paying a price. That’s what Boaz did. The details of the deal: To be the kinsman redeemer you had to be close, right? You had to be close. You had to be connected. You had to have the currency. I mean, you had to have the cash money in the back to do the deal. And on top of that you had to have the clout. Boaz chased this guy down, God put him in his path, he did the deal, he worked for it, and he sealed it. Five times in Ruth 4, it says, “They sat down.” I thought that was interesting. They sat down and just worked it out.
It tells me very quickly that romance is transformational. Once you respond, once I respond to the romantic advances of God it transforms our lives. God does it from the outside, and then we bring Him into the inside, and then He transforms us from the inside, out. It is transformational. Do you know Him? Do you know the Kinsman Redeemer? I’m talking about Jesus.
Romance is organizational, its planned spontaneity. God is a God of order. Boaz was a man or order, Ruth was a woman of order, obeying the laws, doing the deal, trusting God. It’s organizational. Romance goes to the next level in marriage. Yeah, a little bit of it in dating but it goes to the next level in marriage. Don’t get the cart before the horse. Romance is generational. Have you ever thought about the offspring? Have you ever thought about we’re God’s children?
Think about the generational effect of romance. It’s all about reproduction. You have the bridegroom and the bride, the bridegroom being Jesus, the bride being the church. You’ve got intimacy. What’s the result of that? Reproduction. Obed, wow! In the lineage of Jesus. Think about it. Boaz is a shadow, a type of Jesus. Jesus is our Kinsman Redeemer. We’re Ruth, all messed up in Moab. Jesus, though, has set us free by paying the price.
The Bible says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Is He close? He became one of us! Does He have the currency? Wow, He spilled his precious blood on the cross for your iniquities and mine. Does He have the clout? The Son of God, fully God and fully man. Death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus didn’t worry like the other guy did that we don’t know about, about his status. “Wow, you know, if they come into my family and their holdings, and they become a part of my inheritance, man it might mess it up!” No, no, no, no! He said, “You know what? Come on in.” We’re rich. We are rich in Christ! I’m talking about our Kinsman Redeemer.
What did Jesus say after he died on the cross for our sins? “It is finished.” He sat down, just like the people did in the book of Ruth. It’s all about romance. You’ll never understand romance, nor will I, until you understand the romance of God. What was Boaz doing? Boaz was preparing everything for his bride. He was the groom, Ruth was the bride. He was preparing everything for the wedding.
You see there’s a romance going on right now in our land. There’s a romance going on in Miami, Downtown Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano, all over the world. The Bridegroom, Jesus, is getting his bride ready for the wedding. And the Bible says in the ever-after you’ll have the wedding going on. You’ll have the culmination of the romance going on. It’s the bride and the groom coming together. That’s romance!
Have you responded to Christ’s love? Have you received His love? Do you know Him? I said DO YOU KNOW HIM? Because he brought you here for a reason this weekend. You’re listening to my voice for a reason this weekend. You’ve been romanced. You’ve been wooed. You’ve been sought and bought by the irrational, one-of-a-kind love of Jesus and you can respond right now to the romantic advances of the God of the universe.
What’s the Bible about? God and me. That’s what it’s about. A bunch of love letters to you and me.
“But Ed, you don’t understand how deep I am in Moab, brother. I’ve got this cocaine habit.” “You don’t understand, man. I’m messed up with alcohol.” “I’m addicted to porn.” “You don’t understand I’m committing serial adultery.” “You don’t understand, I’ve done this. My life is a lie, Ed!”
I don’t know what you’re into. I mean, sin is my business but I don’t know what you’re doing right now. I don’t know what you did last night or last week. I do know this: The God of the universe wants to meet you right where you are and He will change your life. I can’t change it. God will. It’s transformational. It’s organizational. It’s generational. Won’t you receive it?
Bow your heads for me for a moment. Every head is bowed and every eye is closed.
[Ed ends in closing prayer.]