Redemption Completed - Ruth 4:1-22
Sermon Series: Redeemed
One of the things I have realized is that I’m not the world’s greatest dad. As a dad there are some things that I am unable to do. For example, I can’t make cool stuff. When we go to visit some friends of ours and turn down their street, one of the first houses on the right has this really neat playhouse with its own little, white picket fence. Each time we drive past it I wonder how long it is going to be before our three daughters ask me if I will make one for them. But the problem is, I can’t. I am unable to make cool things like playhouses with wooden fences.
Other times there are some things that I am unwilling to do as a dad. I have a good friend who loves the outdoors. One of the things that he has enjoyed as long as I have known him is hiking and camping in the mountains. If it is 65 degrees and sunny or 25 degrees and snowing, it doesn’t matter to him – if he can get out to the mountains to hike and camp, he is going to do it. He has a family now and sometimes I see pictures he has posted on Facebook of camping trips that he has taken his family on. Then I think to myself, “There is no way that I would take my family on a camping trip in the mountains.” I am not a big fan of the outdoors and I hate cold weather, so the thought of spending the night in a place with bugs and snakes, where it could get cold and rainy (or snowy) doesn’t sound appealing at all. It is something I am unwilling to do.
Then there are some things that I am both unable and unwilling to do. Here’s an example: I cut my son’s hair whenever he needs a haircut. It isn’t hard and I don’t do anything fancy. I just get out the clippers with a guard on them and run the clippers over his head making sure that I don’t miss any spots. It’s definitely not anything that you need a cosmetology license for. But imagine that one day my wife, Amy, asked me to cut one of our daughter’s hair. (That is something that will take an extraordinary imagination to do because we all know that Amy would never ask me to do something like that in her right mind.) There is no way that I would do that because I would be both unwilling and unable. I would never cut one of our daughter’s hair because each of them have long hair. To cut their hair requires far more skill and understanding then just running a pair of clippers over their heads. It requires skill and understanding that I don’t possess. So cutting our daughters’ hair is something that I am unable to do. At the same time, it is something that I am unwilling to do. I know that if I attempted to cut our daughters’ hair that it would probably look like they each attempted to cut one another’s hair. Amy and every other mother who has a little girl would look at me thinking, “What have you done to these precious little girls?” I would be scorned by every single female who saw our daughters. So for that reason I would also be unwilling to cut our daughters’ hair.
I share these thoughts with you as we begin this week because ‘willingness’ and ‘ability’ are going to play a big role in chapter 4 of Ruth. At one of the climatic points in the text this week we are going to find an emphasis on ‘willingness’ and ‘ability’ and see how those concepts factor into the resolution of the story that we have been examining for the last three weeks.
Chapter 4 began right where chapter 3 left off. Boaz had made a promise to Ruth that she would be redeemed in the morning and in the first two verses of chapter 4 we saw Boaz taking the initiative to set the stage for Ruth’s redemption. “Now Boaz had gone up to the gate and sat down there. And behold, the redeemer, of whom Boaz had spoken, came by. So Boaz said, ‘Turn aside, friend; sit down here.’ And he turned aside and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city and said, ‘Sit down here.’ So they sat down” (verses 1-2). Boaz went up to the city gate because redemption was a legal matter that had to be resolved in a court environment and the city gate was the place where legal matters like this one were taken care of. Boaz arrived at the city gate early and waited for the closer relative to come by. When Boaz saw the closer relative he called him over and then gathered together a group of the elders who would serve as witnesses to the legal action that Boaz was going to bring before this closer relative.
“Then he said to the redeemer, ‘Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our relative Elimelech. So I thought I would tell you of it and say, ‘Buy it in the presence of those sitting here and in the presence of the elders of my people.’ If you will redeem it, redeem it. But if you will not, tell me, that I may know, for there is no one besides you to redeem it, and I come after you.’ And he said, ‘I will redeem it’” (verses 3-4).
It is interesting to note that Boaz didn’t begin by calling on the closer relative to redeem a person, but he called on the closer relative to redeem some land. God had declared prior to the Israelites coming into the Promised Land that the land allotted out to families should remain in the possession of those families through the practice of redemption. Listen to Leviticus 25:23-28, “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me. And in all the country you posses, you shall allow a redemption of the land. If your brother becomes poor and sells part of his property, then his nearest redeemer shall come and redeem what his brother has sold. If a man has no one to redeem it and then himself becomes prosperous and finds sufficient means to redeem it, let him calculate the years since he sold it and pay back the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and then return to his prosperity. But if he has not sufficient means to recover it, then what he sold shall remain in the hand of the buyer until the year of jubilee. In the jubilee it shall be released, and he shall return to his property.” We all understand well that Naomi had become poor, so it was the responsibility of a redeemer in her family to purchase the property that was presently in her possession so that the land would not go outside of the family. Boaz did the honorable thing here in bringing this to the attention of the closer relative. Rather than trying to acquire the land for himself, he first brought the need to the attention of the closer relative and called on him to redeem the land if he so desired. But he also asked the closer relative to let him know if he did not wish to redeem the land because he was next in line and if the closer relative chose not to redeem the land than he [Boaz] was willing and would purchase the land.
To the surprise of the readers, the closer relative responded positively. Having had the need brought to his attention the closer relative said to Boaz and to the elders serving as witnesses, “I will redeem it.” This was certainly an unexpected twist in the story line. In chapter 2 the reader was introduced to Boaz – a man of extraordinarily noble character – who was one of Naomi’s and Ruth’s redeemers. In chapter 3 the reader observed Ruth’s risky marriage proposal and Boaz’s good and gracious response. So everything in the story up to this point had pointed to redemption coming through Boaz. But suddenly it seemed that that might not be the case – it appeared that this unnamed, closer relative would be the one who would serve as the redeemer.
Boaz wasn’t finished though, and in verse 5 Boaz told this closer relative that it wasn’t only a portion of land that was in need of redemption, there was a person in need of redemption as well. “Then Boaz said, ‘The day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead, in order to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance.’” When this was brought to the closer relative’s attention something changed. When it was only property that needed redemption this closer relative was both willing and able. But when the closer relative discovered that there was also a person in need of redemption then he made it very clear that he could not carry out the work of redemption. “Then the redeemer said, ‘I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it” (verse 6). The closer relative repeated the same phrase twice in this verse, “I cannot redeem it.” Ruth had become a complication in the redemption process. The author and narrator of the story didn’t reveal whether the closer relative was (a) unwilling to redeem Ruth, (b) unable to redeem Ruth, or (c) both. But what was clear was that once Ruth was introduced into the equation, the closer relative had a change of heart and mind.
In verse 7 the reader received some commentary from the author and narrator that would have been helpful for their understanding of what took place next. Apparently the custom that was practiced at the time the story took place had fallen out of practice when the author and narrator recorded the story. So the author provided a little editorial comment to provide the reader with further clarity about what was taking place. “Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, the one drew off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was the manner of attesting in Israel.” So in other words, a completed negotiation and transaction between two parties who were in mutual agreement was identified by one of the parties taking off his sandal and giving it to the other individual. Then the author continued with the story in verse 8¸ “So when the redeemer said to Boaz, ‘Buy it for yourself,’ he drew off his sandal.” The closer relative had made his decision – he had chosen not to redeem Naomi’s land or Ruth. In making that decision he also surrendered his right of redemption to Boaz, who was next in line. And to confirm that this was the decision that he had reached and that he was turning his redemption right over to Boaz, he took off his sandal and gave it to Boaz.
"Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, ‘You are witnesses this day that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and to Mahlon. Also Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day’” (verses 9-10).
For Boaz, the good and real redeemer in the story, Ruth wasn’t a complication - he was both willing and able to redeem her! Once the right of redemption had been given to him from the closer relative, he wasted no time. Boaz immediately declared before all of the witnesses in that courtroom-type environment that he had purchased the land belonging to his deceased relatives, and that he was taking Ruth as his wife. Redemption for Ruth would not be delayed any longer – he had the means to redeem her and (even more importantly) he had a desire to redeem her. And in that moment, Boaz went from being ‘a’ redeemer for Ruth to being ‘the’ redeemer for Ruth, who would take her unto himself, give her a new identity, and provide her with security and rest for the future.
Verses 11-12 revealed that those serving as witnesses of this legal matter all rejoiced at its completion. “Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, ‘We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem, and may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring that the Lord will give you by this young woman.’” In recognition of Boaz’s extraordinary loving-kindess to Ruth the witnesses at the gate asked God to bless Boaz through Ruth. Rachel and Leah (and each of their servants) had provided Israel (Jacob) with twelve sons who would become the twelve tribes of Israel. These women (and each of their servants) had helped to make Israel’s name great among the nations because of the numerous offspring which they had provided for him. So the witnesses at the gate were asking God to do the same thing through Ruth. They were asking God to work through Ruth to provide Boaz with offspring that would cause his name to be renowned (a request that quite honestly seemed unlikely to happen given the fact that Ruth had been married for more than 10 years without bearing any children for her former husband [see 1:4-5]). In addition to asking God to make this foreign woman like two of their nation’s greatest matriarchs, the witnesses also prayed that God would cause this new family unit to play a significant role in their nation moving forward, just as the family of Perez had. Perez was an ancestor of Boaz’s, who, himself, had been born of a widowed woman, who had to have offspring provided for her by means of another relative. Perez (and the offspring which traced their heritage back to him) seemed to have played a more significant role in the history of Israel than any of Judah’s other sons and their families. So the witnesses at the gate also seemed to be asking God to do the same thing through this family – to provide a son (one who would experience a consummation and birth like his own ancestor’s, Perez) whose family and offspring would play a significant role in the nation of Israel (and perhaps even beyond the nation of Israel). Boaz’s grace and generosity had been so extraordinary that the witnesses at the gate of Bethlehem were asking God to bless him through his new wife, Ruth, in ways which only a few others had known and experienced.
In verse 13 the author announced even more good news. “So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son.” Boaz had done what he could as Ruth’s redeemer, yet there was nothing Boaz could do to cause Ruth, who had earlier appeared to be barren, to have a child. On the other hand, while Boaz may have been helpless in this regard, God was not, and the reader learned that God answered the prayers of the witnesses from the gate to give Boaz offspring by causing this new couple to conceive and to have a son. The birth of a son was certainly a reason for Boaz and Ruth to rejoice. It was also reason for Naomi to rejoice. Her husband had led her away from her home and native land when the famine had struck. She had gone away hungry and without adequate food. While she was in Moab she lost her husband and two sons to death. And when she returned to Bethlehem she came back an elderly widow who was dependent upon a foreign daughter-in-law to glean in the fields of others for food. Naomi hadn’t had much to celebrate or rejoice in until Ruth met Boaz. Then Naomi began to see the loving-kindness, compassion, mercy, and graciousness of God on display in this man. What began with permission to glean in his fields, turned into redemption for herself and Ruth, and finally a grandson. This child had become a great reason for celebration in this family. But this child was also greatly celebrated by those around them in Bethlehem who had witnessed God’s loving-kindness on display to this family. “Then the women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.’” The women in the community rejoiced greatly with Naomi because they had seen God’s faithfulness and had were witnesses of the life-changing impact that redemption was having in Naomi’s life. They understood that by providing Naomi with a redeemer God was restoring her life and supplying what she needed in her old age (physically through the provision of food and finances and other physical needs, and emotionally through the hope and security that would replace the fear and despair). So they declared their praise to God and called for Boaz’s name to be made famous in Israel (just as the witnesses as the gate had declared in vs. 11). The women also spoke an incredible word of praise about Ruth. The women declared that Ruth was more valuable to Naomi than seven sons would have been. It’s interesting to think about this in light of Naomi’s words when she returned to Bethlehem. We heard Naomi say in 1:21, “I went away full [in regards to family, with a husband and two sons], and the Lord has brought me back empty [once again in regards to family, with no husband or sons].” When Naomi returned to Bethlehem she saw herself as empty – but in reality, although she did not understand this at the time, she had returned with a daughter-in-law who was more valuable than seven sons. She left with two sons, but came back with one who had a greater value than seven sons. So while she saw herself as ‘empty,’ she would later realize that she had come back with even more.
The story itself ends with verses 16-17, “Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying ‘A son has been born to Naomi.’ They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.” At the story’s conclusion we see one who once stood in tremendous need of redemption now resting in that redemption and experiencing the goodness of God’s life-changing faithfulness and loving-kindness. As the curtain closes on this story the final scene observed by the readers was Naomi, full of joy, serving as a nanny for her grandson, who is resting happily on her lap. They also learned the child’s name (Obed) and discovered that he would grow to be King David’s grandfather.
The story itself ended with verse 17. However, the author added to the end of the story a short genealogy in verses 18-22. It reads, “Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.” If we are honest with ourselves, most of us don’t pay much attention to these genealogies. We think the names are too difficult, the lists are too long, and there is nothing of value for those of us living in the 21st century to learn from them. But to dismiss this genealogy that was placed at the end of the story of Ruth as unimportant would be a HUGE mistake. Here’s the reason why. The narrator starts with Perez – one who was born to a widowed woman, who was commended for acting righteously and who was dependant upon a relative to get pregnant. God had faithfully provided descendants to this man and his family that had lead to the righteous redeemer in our present story, Boaz. God had worked through Boaz, who served as a righteous redeemer for Ruth, to provide him with a son named Obed. This son would eventually father a son named Jesse, who would go on to father a son named David. It was this David who would later be anointed as the second king of Israel and who would receive this promise from God:
“. . . the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:11-16).
God had promised David (Israel’s greatest king) that through him would come an even greater King. Through David would come a King whose house and kingdom and throne would be established forever. This coming King, who would come from David and be the greatest of all kings, would also be the greatest of all redeemers. He is Jesus!
So now let’s look back at chapter 4 again and see how God uses this story to foreshadow the work of the greatest of all redeemers. In our sin we are all like Ruth - each and every one of us stood in need of spiritual redemption. And just as God sent Boaz into Ruth’s life to physically redeem her, God sent His Son, to be the great Redeemer who would redeem humanity from their sin. Jesus was not like the closer relative in chapter 4 who was unwilling and unable to redeem another person. Jesus was like Boaz, who was both willing and able. In fact the Bible teaches that Jesus is the only Redeemer who can rescue humanity. Jesus said Himself in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Later the Apostle Peter would declare in Acts 4:12, “. . . there is salvation in on one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Our world is filled with people and things who promise to delight our hearts, who promise to satisfy our souls, and who promise to provide salvation, security, and rest. But all of those people and things are like the closer relative in chapter 4 – none of them are really able to provide the redemption that we each so desperately need. There is only One who is like Boaz from the story, only One who is willing and able to redeem us. And through His crucifixion, death, and burial, Jesus paid our redemption’s cost. He bore our sins upon the cross. 2 Peter 2:24 says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree . . .” 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake He [God] made Him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus served as our substitute and died a horrific death that He did not deserve because there was nothing that we could do to redeem ourselves. The Bible teaches that one day each of us is going to have to stand before the judgment seat of God. Romans 14:10 and 12 say, “For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God . . . then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” When we stand before the judgment seat of God we will be coming into a courtroom-type environment where we will stand before the righteous and holy Judge. There all of our sin will serve as evidence of our guilty and our unrighteousness, and the only just verdict from God will be to depart from Him into the eternal torment of hell. But for those who have believed in Jesus’ substitutionary death on their behalf and placed their faith in the sufficiency of His death, burial, and resurrection alone – Jesus will come before His Father on their behalf and say, “I have redeemed this one. I paid the price for his sin and I have covered him with My righteousness. He turned from his sin and placed his faith in Me, and so I have given him a new identity, and a new hope, and a new security.” Then the Father will look at him and see that his redemption’s cost has been paid in full and He will welcome him into his presence forever. Just as Boaz declared Ruth and Naomi’s redemption at the gates of Bethlehem, Jesus will declare His redemption of all who have trusted in Him as Savior and Lord at the judgment seat of His Father.
And like Boaz, whose name was renowned in Bethlehem (vs. 11) and in all of Israel (vs. 14), the greater Redeemer – Jesus – will have a name that is renowned in all of heaven and earth. Because of the extraordinary nature of his redemption every person will eventually recognize and acknowledge His renown. Paul said in his letter to the church at Philippi, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11). There has never been and will never be a redemption greater than Jesus’ redemption of humanity. The death, burial, and resurrection of the Son of God in place of guilty sinners was the greatest work that has ever been accomplished. And because of the extraordinary magnitude of Jesus’ accomplishment, there will never be a name that is more renowned than His. One day we will all recognize the greatest Redeemer is also the greatest King and bow in submission to Him. The question is simply, “Will you recognize Him as King now and willingly follow after Him in humble gratitude for what He has done, or will you refuse to acknowledge His sacrifice on your behalf and be forced to recognize His position as King as He sentences you to an eternity in hell?”
Having concluded the story of Ruth, I believe that verses 14-15 are perhaps the most important verses in the entire book, for they proclaim the essence of what the author was striving to communicate through the story. We have to understand the words of the women in verses 14-15 as more than just a declaration about Boaz. The words of the women in these verses are also declarative of the coming Messiah – Jesus. “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer . . .” Yes, God had provided physical redemption through Boaz. But by using Boaz to provide physical redemption for Ruth, God was also remaining faithful to His promise to provide a Messiah who would redeem us from our sin. Humanity’s only redeemer for sin, Jesus, would come from the line of Boaz. If Boaz had not redeemed Ruth not only would she and Naomi have been left without physical redemption, but they also would have been left without spiritual redemption, for the line leading to Jesus would have been broken. But God maintained a familial line to the coming Savior by using Boaz to rescue and redeem Ruth. God had been faithful not to leave Naomi and Ruth without the hope of a spiritual redeemer. The women also declared that this redeemer would be to Naomi a restorer or life. Boaz was a restorer of life in a physical sense. He provided food, he provided financial income, he provided security for the future. Naomi would find rest in her increasing age in the physical provision of Boaz. But Naomi’s spiritual life could also be restored because of the coming Messiah. Paul said in his letter to the church at Ephesus, “. . . you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked. . .” (Ephesians 2:1). Spiritually Naomi was dead – there was no life left in her. She needed a Redeemer who was capable of restoring spiritual life to her. And Jesus was that One! So while the women praised Boaz in verses 14-15, God was also using them to utter a very prophetic statement – through Boaz God had been faithful not to leave Naomi and Ruth without a spiritual Redeemer, but was continuing to make the way for the One who would take their lives which were dead in sin and give them new life in Himself.
I’ll close with one last quote from a commentator on the significance of this Old Testament book: “This book and this genealogy demonstrate that in the dark days of the judges the chosen line is preserved not by heroic exploits by deliverers or kings but by the good hand of God, who rewards good people with a fullness beyond all imagination . . . In the dark days of the judges the foundation is laid for the line that would produce the Savior, the Messiah, the Redeemer of a lost and destitute humanity.”
Connection Point Questions for Discussion:
1. Can you think of a time when you went to someone for help and they were unable to help you? Tell us about that time and how it made you feel when you realized that that individual couldn't help you. Now think about a time when you went to someone for help and they were able to help you. Tell us about that time and how it made you feel.
2. Who is Jesus willing to redeem? (What about those who sin all the time? What about those who commit really bad sin? What about those who presently seem to be rejection Him? What about those who have a different ethnicity or religious up-bringing?) If Jesus is willing to redeem all people - including those who sin a lot, who commit really bad sin, and who seem to be rejecting Him - how should that influence our thinking in who we are willing to interact with? Is there anyone in your life right now who you are unwilling to interact with, and if so what do you need to do?
3. Describe the way that the elders and the others who were at the gate responded when they witnessed Boaz's redemption of Naomi and Ruth. How should those of us who have not only witnessed Jesus' redemption, but who have experienced Jesus' redemption respond to what has taken place in our own lives? (Be as specific as you can.)
4. In verses 14-15 the women of the city spoke to Naomi of God's faithfulness in her life. Do you ever talk about (or remind) your brothers and sisters in Christ of God's faithfulness in their lives? Why is this an important thing to do with (and for) one another? Have you seen God's faithfulness in the life on one of your brothers or sisters in Christ recently? Have you shared that with him/her? If so, how? If not, when can you find a time this week when you can remind him/her of God's faithfulness and encourage her. If you haven't seen God's faithfulness in the life of another, perhaps you can ask God to help you see His faithfulness in the lives or others or to demonstrate His faithfulness in the lives of others, so that you might be able to help point it out and encourage their hearts.
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